[ilds] a grave too small for the coffin

Charles Sligh Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
Tue Oct 20 06:10:18 PDT 2009

-----Original Message-----
From: "Godshalk, William (godshawl)" 

Napoleon is at presence not amongst us. When he appears in a book of fiction -- and he does -- is he a real person or a fictional character? Both? Does context really count here? Or is Napoleon at present always just words, words, words? 


That is the point when Napoleon becomes a bit like Yorick, Shakespeare, Scobie, Pursewarden, or Lawrence Durrell, right?

Hamlet wants to know who Hecuba was.  

We want to know who Hamlet was--or who Shakespeare was.  

The secular afterlife of Bill's imagination or Bruce's imagination. . . .

A musty skull, a few relics, an old house or two, and some stories--"Somewhere all these old sticks of furniture / Must still be knocking about" (Cavafy)--tattered old things to be picked up and passed from hand to hand, the source of memory or fiction or history. . . .

"Dost thou think Alexander looked o' this fashion i'the earth?"

Yorick the Clown was Prince Hamlet's patron saint.  And Scobie, whose "grave was too small for the coffin," is Darley's Yorick, I think.  The old sailor has a "tendency" not to stay put inside his coffin or his grave.  

After finishing the _Quartet_, Durrell had a "tendency" to tell and retell Scobie's stories more than the stories of any other character that he created.   What does that mean?

Old Ron's memory running down like an overplayed record with the grooves worn down.  None of us--writers or readers--are better than that, really.  

But Durrell did know that some folks get more records pressed and played than others.

A grey misty day here on Missionary Ridge.  Perhaps the sun will come out and lift it away.


Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Charles-Sligh at utc.edu

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