[ilds] a writing personality

Charles Sligh Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
Wed Dec 3 19:13:15 PST 2008

Here follows more Durrell on Douglas.



Paris Review
The Art of Fiction No. 23
Interviewed by Gene Andrewski & Julian Mitchell
Issue 22, Autumn-Winter 1959-1960

You said you admired Norman Douglas?

I admire him because he was a European.

But stylistically?

Both as a man and a stylist. His was a writing personality that
I admired and still admire very much. You see, he was unsnobbish,
and yet he was the extreme stylist of the silver age . . . and in my
day it is a very rare quality to have someone who is a good stylist
without being snobbish. The delicacy and tact and the stylish
gentlemanly thing was so well matched in Douglas that it carried
no affectations; he was not trying to be pompous or anything. He
is the happy example of the style perfectly married to the man.
I never met him, but I’m sure his speaking tone was exactly like his
writing tone. That easy informal Roman Silver-Age style is something
everyone should be able to enjoy and appreciate. It wouldn’t
do if you were going to tackle a large-scale work like War and
Peace, or the later Dostoyevsky, or even the sort of thing that
Henry Miller is doing. It would just not be adaptable enough for
it. It’s a finished, delicate thing. It’s like chamber music. But style
is in a separate box, you know. I have never really been a stylist
deliberately. The stylists have taught me economy, which is what I
very badly needed. Being naturally over-efflorescent, I have always
probably learned more from the sort of writers I have never really
imitated. They taught me just as feature journalism told me to put
the most important fact in the first sentence—a simple gimmick, as
it were. You can learn from Lytton Strachey, for example, to write
something balanced and pointed, as shortly as possible. It is
condensation I admired in them.

Charles L. Sligh
Assistant Professor
Department of English
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
charles-sligh at utc.edu

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