[ilds] Takes

Charles Sligh Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
Sun Aug 16 08:57:59 PDT 2009

Good to see your note, Grove.

>         /Lolita/ is certainly Nabokov's masterpiece, but despite its
>         myriad allusions I find it small and self-contained. Its cast
>         of characters is limited, and its language shows signs of the
>         artificiality that in my opinion would vitiate Nabokov's
>         subsequent works.

I have several thoughts here. 

Why should we allow Eagleton or any other critic set the terms as 
oppositional, "either . . . or"? 

Why must it be the question of "Nabokov or Durrell"? or "Hemingway or 
Durrell"?  or "Al-Kharrat or Durrell"?  &c.

Call me Epicurean, but I balk at that tether.  I can enjoy Scott and 
Austen, George Eliot and Lewis Carroll, Robert Browning and Swinburne. 

In fact, I often enjoy these "oppositionals" all the more because I feel 
that I am crossing borders and braking bounds.

I mark out works of literature as distinctive and memorable based upon 
how they surprise me into new experience.   The authors may have written 
from any variety of motivations--high aesthetic, Anarchy, Marxist 
revolutionary, or pornography.

And that would be my point of difference from Eagleton.  I am open to 
the possibility of being pleasurably surprised despite politics or lack 
of politics. 

I do not begin by caring about those motivations, but rather with how 
surprising or successful a work seems within its own limits of form and 
within the course of reading that I have conducted up to that point. 

In that, no doubt, I follow Swinburne, who found pleasure and power in 
the verse of Dante, Milton, and Christina Rossetti /despite/ their 
different sorts of Christian dogma.

>         It does not detract from the poetic supremacy of AEschylus and
>         of Dante, of Milton and of Shelley, that they should have been
>         pleased to put their art to such use ; nor does it detract
>         from the sovereign greatness of other poets that they should
>         have had no note of song for any such theme. In a word, the
>         doctrine of art for art is true in the positive sense, false
>         in the negative; sound as an affirmation, unsound as a
>         prohibition.

> The /AQ/, in contrast, is far more expansive, a "masterpiece of size" 
> that opens outward and has much more to say about the world. Unlike 
> Nabokov's style, its style seems to me much more rooted in the natural 
> richness of the English language as it has developed over the centuries.
That certainly may be true.  Contra Eagleton, I find a very human and 
humane sort of writing in the island books and the poetry of the 1940s 
and 1950s.  And Darley and Pursewarden and Balthazar are very human in 
their limits and fears and mistakes.  

I wonder what you mean when you say that Durrell's prose partakes of the 
"natural richness of the English language as it has developed over the 

For my own part, I would find that true in thinking about, say, 
/Justine/.  There, in certain sentences and paragraphs, Durrell restores 
to currency an obsolete term; in others, he commits jarring redundancies 
of word or phrase.  I have grown quite fond of those quaint little 
birthmarks and cicatrices running up and down the text.  All of that is 
/Justine/--I would not ask otherwise.  I enjoy the notion that the book 
was developing in real time, that it is still developing. . . .

Thanks, Grove!


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

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