[ilds] Durrell and The Master

Ilyas ilyas.khan at crosby.com
Sat Aug 16 22:57:33 PDT 2008

James asked me what, if any, was the overlap between Henry James and LD. I
had taken James¹ travel writing in France (complete with Pennell¹s sketches)
along with me on a recent trip to Avignon (though we stayed in the
delightfully named nearby village of ³Crillon Le Brave²).

I told James that I did not think there was an overlap, save for the
somewhat downbeat view of the ruins of the Papal Palace that both writers
developed. In the case of James he is downright snooty to the point of being
dismissive about the main enclave.

Having thought about it a bit more (thanks again to James for asking the
right question), I think there is an overlap, albeit not in the writing. I
found myself captivated, by both books, with trying to anticipate the mood
of the writer. For anyone who has invested the time and effort in the
Avignon Q. its obvious that there are many different LD¹s writing. The
quality, tone, texture and even story line changes, depending upon which LD
turns up for that particular part of the book. I know that reviewers and
critics have torn out their hair, metaphorically speaking, at the huge
swings in ³quality² of writing in the quintet. And I have to agree with
those reviewers and critics. There are some fabulous parts, and then bits
which are just plain clumsy. Pedestrian. Where it feels as if LD is putting
in time just for the sake of getting on with the book.

Jame¹s writing is more consistent, but his moods do show through. The Master
in good form fairly sparkles across the years. In a bad mood, the writing,
verging on turgid, gets bogged down and you wonder if the result was
actually worth the effort. I even wondered if a good modern day editor might
have suggested dropping a few of the towns and sights that get weighed down
by James¹ sour moods.

I was down in the Avignon area for a while with these two travelling
companions, and whilst I cant say that ³being there² helped me understand
the quintet any better, I must say that I enjoyed (indeed revelled) in
Monsieur and found new wonder in Constance (now my favourite book of the

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