[ilds] Sweetness and darkness

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Wed Apr 30 14:27:26 PDT 2008

On 4/30/2008 2:56 PM, Bruce Redwine wrote:
> 2.  Why would Durrell/Pursewarden be interested in his posthumous press?  Isn't this the height of conceit?
I can't take on all that you offer, but I will throw what I can at 
number two, Bruce.

I had not been thinking of press or publicity, really.  Of course, 
Johnny Keats gathering up Pursewarden's Obiter Dicta (cf. last pages of 
/Balthazar/) is a part of it.  Just as this listserv is made up of 
various sorts of people with various sorts of fancies, beliefs, 
theories, doubts about, and--sometimes, it seems--agons with Durrell, 
Purswarden's reading audience is made up of many different types.

A funny things I recall from Carbondale that perhaps Bill or Richard 
will help me to recall more clearly:  In one notebook there are a whole 
series of imaginary letters written to Durrell or Pursewarden from 
imaginary readers.  What was that?  A wonderful, funny conceit, I think.

But when I brought all of this up, I really was thinking of the cluster 
of associates and accidental lovers who gather together after 
Pursewarden's death and stare in amazed unknowing at the empty space 
left between them, the empty space he left between his books and his 
sentences and his words.  What holds them all together?  Where did it 
come from?  Where did it go? 

If any realization or truth comes to Darley or Justine &c. about 
Pursewarden, it is that Pursewarden really was already /not there/ when 
they assumed he was there.  Or at least that they had all assumed far 
too much about Pursewarden's and thought they had known him while never 
even getting close.  And I have to think that somehow Durrell is poking 
us, reminding us about what conceit lies under any of our claims to know 
"Lawrence Durrell."

"The height of conceit"--yes, if you mean "conceit" in the other, older 
way--height of imagination--imagining what happens after your 
death--true conceit to think that you could ever know that.

W.S. Merwin read me a poem while he was here in North Carolina a week or 
two ago.  Merwin's poem was addressed to the Whales in their Coming 
Extinction, but as all things like it it was really addressed to you and 
to me and to everything conceited and human and mortal and soon to be 

>         I write as though you could understand
>         And I could say it
>         One must always pretend something
>         Among the dying

"On seeming to presume," as Durrell says. . . .

Really, that "seeming to presume" phrase seems a wellspring for the 
ironic Cheshire cat smile of Durrell and his Pursewarden.  They are both 
operating with an Epicurean's awareness of mortality and the limits of 
what part of their experience they could ever really communicate to 
anyone else.  Presuming one could be understood.  Presuming that you 
understand anyone else.  Presuming that your life or your words matter 
or will last beyond some set point.  Desire checked by physics.  Not 
much past /Hamlet/, in the end. . . . .

As Durrell said, he was a /Greek/, not a Christian.

Yet faced with the unknowing Pursewarden and his maker Durrell still 
presumed to write, and that once seemed a paradox but now is found 
true.  Sometimes Durrell and Pursewarden wrote to pay for the gas and 
the lights and the plonk.  Sometimes they wrote because they found 
themselves inexplicably moved by beauty or by absurdity. 

And still something Durrell has written has somehow lasted this long.  
And then, many many miles away, in a place I have never been and Durrell 
never went, David Green reads and feels something, presumes something, 
seems to become something else, something wonderful.  I cheer David's 
presumption because that presumption cheers me and restores me.  It may 
or may not be "Lawrence Durrell"--that "occasional angel" came to us 
down his ladder of alcohol who is eighteen years vanished forever and we 
will never know which way nor where he went.  But in the meantime, on 
this short day of frost and sun, David Green on Lawrence Durrell is good 
enough for me.  /

Salud/, David.  It is good to find other Greeks.


Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.uvic.ca/pipermail/ilds/attachments/20080430/782e9c58/attachment.html 

More information about the ILDS mailing list