[ilds] Fact and Fiction

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Thu Oct 22 11:05:36 PDT 2009


Well said.  Good quotations from the Quartet.  Thanks for reminding me  
about them and those other aspects of L. Durrell.  He really is vast,  
isn't he?  And there's always the tendency (mine in particular) to  
focus on one aspect to the exclusion of others.  So, he's hard to pin  
down and just as elusive as the world he creates.  No doubt.  On the  
other hand, my interests in him and his writings have to do with his  
use of language.  I see a problem there.  Language was his great gift,  
but he often used it to excess and as a kind of screen, hindering  
"self-knowledge."  I'll use Othello as an analogy, whom I don't see as  
tragic, rather as self-deluded.  Shakespeare's Moor uses beautiful  
language throughout the play ("Keep up your bright swords, for the dew  
will rust 'em"), but he doesn't get beyond it, substitutes beauty for  
ugliness, and in the end reduces Desdemona to an artifact ("Likes the  
base Indian, threw a pearl away").  Renaissance scholars will say I  
don't appreciate how Shakesperare's language is conventional and not  
meant to be taken as representative of some mental state.  I don't  
think so.  I see Durrell doing something similar.


On Oct 22, 2009, at 6:58 AM, Julia Roberts wrote:

> Bruce:  I wouldn't go as far to say that each of us is as unknowable  
> to ourselves as the fellow next door.  Instead, I think of  
> Pursewarden saying "There is no Other; there is only oneself facing  
> forever the problem of one's self discovery!"  This discovery  
> process is ongoing - yet a challenge because ordinary life  
> encourages one to find certainties or truths if you will.  How  
> difficult it is to avoid conclusions, to observe without judgment  
> one's own evolution and not tire of the constant growth, not yearn  
> for stasis.  And with respect to ever really knowing another, I  
> think of Justine saying to Darley "You see a different me.  But once  
> again the difference lies in you, in what you imagine you see!"    
> Perhaps one reason I so love Durrell is that his writings remind me  
> that I should not get too comfortable in my assessment of myself or  
> others.  Also in Clea, this reference to the intrusion of the past  
> on our perceptions of the present.  "With every succeeding mile I  
> felt anxiety and expectation running neck and neck.  The Past!"    
> What would relationships be, especially intimate ones, if we could  
> on some level view each person we suppose to know as if we had just  
> met him or her?  How would one's own journey to self knowledge be  
> affected if it weren't influenced on every level by the past?  Just  
> a few ruminations stemming from my reading of Clea.... Julia
> On Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 12:55 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net 
> > wrote:
> Julia,
> Bill and I hold opposing positions (I think), and I doubt if he  
> wants to be confused with me.  Anyway, I agree with just about  
> everything you said and was struck by how much it reminded me of  
> Montaigne and his great undertaking in the Essays, namely, to  
> discover himself.  I wonder, however, about being "strangers even to  
> ourselves."  If there's anything I know in this world, it has to be  
> me, myself, so I have trouble with the idea that each of us is as  
> unknowable as the fellow next door.  I tend to think that Durrell's  
> notion of the self as "selected fictions" is a way to dress up  
> something ordinary, something like saying, "This self, this I called  
> me, which I recognize from moment to moment, is constantly exploring  
> the world in new situations."
> Bruce
> On Oct 21, 2009, at 6:57 AM, Julia Roberts wrote:
>> Hello Everyone:  I have been following your email conversations for  
>> the last several months.  I am not a scholar and don't possess a  
>> great literary mind but I enjoy Durrell so joined your on line  
>> group.  I would like to comment on Bill's question: Do we ever know  
>> anyone so well as to say, this is the way he or she really and  
>> truly is or was?
>> I'm not sure we are capable of knowing a real person or a fictional  
>> person other than through the lens of our own experience,  
>> prejudice, wishful or lazy thinking.  In fiction, it seems to me  
>> that the writer attempts to portray a character in a very precise  
>> way so that the reader will see that person as the writer  
>> intended.  A fine writer creates a dream with language and words  
>> and takes us along in that dream.  A fine reader tries to put  
>> judgmental thinking aside, tries to open his or her imagination to  
>> the dream.  However, readers are not writers; they may not be  
>> particularly creative; may not be capable of suspending their own  
>> perception of reality to embrace the portrayal of a character as  
>> the writer intended. We are all influenced by our experiences.  My  
>> understanding of the characters in Durrell's Quartet was very  
>> different when I read it my 50s from what it was when I read it in  
>> my 30s.   Not only do I doubt that one person can ever really know  
>> another, I think it is rare for a person to know the way he or she  
>> really and truly is.  We are not sealed off from the world; we are  
>> receptacles and mirrors for experiences.  Our five senses process a  
>> million inputs of stimulation every day.  We are constantly  
>> changing even in subtle ways and unless we are spending several  
>> hours a day in self absorbed reflection or on the analysts couch  
>> (which may in fact create greater confusion or lead to false  
>> assumptions), I think we can't help but be strangers even to  
>> ourselves; to some extent we see ourselves through our chosen  
>> "selected fictions" of ourselves.  Julia
>> On Tue, Oct 20, 2009 at 1:28 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net 
>> > wrote:
>> Bill,
>> Depends on what you mean by "just words, words, words."  Words as  
>> perceptions, thoughts, language?  As for Tolstoy's Napoleon, I'll  
>> be entirely conventional and say he's fiction, with a little fact  
>> thrown in.  But what about Emil Ludwig's Napoleon?  Is he fact or  
>> fiction?  That famous biography is fact, no?  Well, maybe, and only  
>> insofar as it's accurate.  Is it true?  Do we ever know anyone so  
>> well as to say, this is the way he or she really and truly is or  
>> was?  Here, we're getting close to Durrell's idea of "selected  
>> fictions," which opens up the debate.  So, we need not limit this  
>> idea to represented works.
>> Here's a story from the newspapers of some years back.  A funeral  
>> was held for a successful businessman in Florida.  At the gravesite  
>> were his wife and children.  Also at the gravesite were another  
>> wife and children.  Both families had never met before.  Both women  
>> shared the same husband, lived fifty miles apart, and were  
>> completely unaware of one another.  You might say the deceased  
>> husband read Durrell's Quartet and decided to live his own  
>> "selected fictions."  So, as far as the respective "wives" were  
>> concerned, you might also say the man they knew was a "fiction."   
>> He was not what he seemed (and here, Charles can bring in Hamlet on  
>> "seems").
>> The confusion here arises from the use of language.  "Fiction" is a  
>> word with several senses, a couple of which I have just used.  I  
>> prefer to reserve "fiction" for the imagination.  For what the  
>> wives experienced, I would say they were deceived and their husband  
>> a gross deception.
>> Bruce
> _
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