[ilds] Sweetness and darkness

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Thu May 1 11:33:08 PDT 2008

On 5/1/2008 1:58 PM, James Gifford wrote:
>> 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.
> "The Price of Glory: Gleanings from a Writer's In-tray" is the title, I 
> believe.  If it's the same one I have, it is very funny...
Thanks, Jamie.  Is that particular notebook at Carbondale, as I am 

Those imaginary letters from imaginary fans are very, very funny.  He 
mocks all of our conceits and illusions very well.  I think that sort of 
needy response from reader who saw him as the "Man with the Message" 
made him feel very lonely and isolated and inadequate.  Really, how 
could he respond?  I think the loneliness and isolation of Pursewarden 
is true to what was deep inside--maybe to what Bruce calls the "dark 
crystal,' but I am not certain.  A good friend to many, yet always 
terribly alone in some way, always haunted by "the space between."

I just wish Durrell had set his pack of satyrs upon the spoor trail of 
all of those pesky American academics who never tire of picking his 
works apart. . . . .

But then he does make that kind of satirical response:
Durrell, Lawrence :  THE CRITICS [from Collected Poems: 1931-1974 (1985) 
, Faber and Faber ]
> They never credit us
> With being bad enough
> The boys that come to edit us:
> Of simply not caring when a prize,
> Something for nothing, comes our way,
> A wife, a mistress, or a holiday
> From People living neckfast in their lies.
> No: Shakespear's household bills
> Could never be responsible, they say,
> For all the heartbreak and the 1,000 ills
> His work is heir to, poem, sonnet, play ...
> Emended readings give the real reason:
> The times were out of joint, the loves, the season.
> Man With A Message---how could you forget
> To read your proofs, the heartache and the fret?
> The copier or the printer
> Must take the blame for it in all
> The variants they will publish by the winter.
> 'By elision we quarter suffering.' Too true.
> 'From images and scansion can be learned.' ...
> Yet under it perhaps may be discerned
> A something else afoot---a Thing
> Lacking both precedent and name and gender:
> An uncreated Weight which left its clue,
> Making him run up bills,
> Making him violent or distrait or tender:
> Leaving for Stratford might have heard It say:
> 'Tell them I won't be back on Saturday.
> My wife will understand I'm on a bender.'
> And to himself muttering, muttering: 'Words
> Added to words multiply the space
> Between this feeling and my expressing It.
> The wires get far too hot. Time smoulders
> Like a burning rug. I /will/ be free.' ...
> And all the time from the donkey's head
> The lover is whispering: 'This is not
> What I imagined as Reality.
> /If truth were needles surely eyes would see?'/
> 1948/ /1948/


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

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