[ilds] VN & LD

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Sun Oct 11 15:27:38 PDT 2009


I'm not referring to opinions about literary value, which authors are  
worthwhile and which not.  That is largely a matter of taste, and as  
has long been established, matters of taste are not matters of  
dispute:  de gusitbus non est disputandum.  Durrell and Nabokov had  
their preferences and both were capable of highly-charged,  
idiosyncratic opinions.  But so what?  That was their right.  No  
problem there.  I'm referring to precision of thought, the kind which  
we have been discussing.  For good reason Durrell decided, either on  
his own or on the advice of his editor, to eliminate his 1958 note to  
Balthazar from the collected 1962 edition of the Quartet.  That  
statement about his plan as a "soup-mix," with embellishments from  
Einstein's Relativity theory about space-time, is silly and and won't  
hold up under scrutiny.  You may take his note as an extended  
metaphor, exciting in its sweep and novelty, but on close examination  
it looks pompous and foolish.  It won't hold up — writing four novels  
from different perspectives is equatable to General Relativity?  Or  
was it Special Relativity? — neither of which I even pretend to  
understand, except in the most simplified sense.  I like to think a  
good education will train you to think clearly and accurately, and I  
don't think this would have harmed any of Durrell's "instincts."


On Oct 11, 2009, at 2:04 PM, Charles Sligh wrote:

> -----Original Message-----
> From: gkoger at mindspring.com
> Surely many of Nabokov's remarks on literature (including his  
> wholesale dismissal of numerous highly regarded writers) are more  
> "questionable" than Durrell's.
> ********
> I would put it another way.
> If I had the opportunity to sit down for an evening with either VN  
> or LD, I would choose LD.
> Durrell's recorded conversations on tape and film  seem to me more  
> human, more humane.  They sparkle with surprising jumps.    He  
> learned to talk in the cafes and wine cellars, and he is very nimble.
> VN had the privilege to always to from above.  Thus his stated  
> preference--ungranted by his university deans--for recording his  
> lectures to be played over tape to students, with whom he did not  
> wish to mingle. . . .
> LD's ideal was more like Kipling's Kim or Homer's Odysseus--a  
> "little friend of all the world," able to walk among all orders and  
> know their minds and manners. . . .
> And LD's remarks are full of a kind a late-Roman pity for the  
> fallen, those benighted writers of a previous generation who have  
> passed on and whose reputations may also be shuffling into  
> oblivion. . . .
> I do not find those surprising sorties or that sympathy for the  
> fallen in VN.
> VN is strikingly cold and aphoristic, and in his discrimination and  
> his dismissal he is absolutely imperial, cutting--like some old  
> fencing master at service in the court of a princeling, taking his  
> aristocratic charge to task for not keeping up to the mark. . . .
> I believe that VN called Borges "a metaphysician in a sombrero."  I  
> will be beholden to anyone who can give me the precise quote. . . .
> ***************************************
> Charles L. Sligh
> Department of English
> University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
> Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
> ***************************************

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