[ilds] Fw: ILDS Digest, Vol 38, Issue 1_DURRELL's Diction

Marc Piel marcpiel at interdesign.fr
Sun May 2 10:24:06 PDT 2010

May I suggest a pragmatic thought?

Wherever I go, I inevitably end up in a bookshop: 
Everywhere I see LD books still for sale on the 
shelves. This means they are still selling and to 
me is proof that "sensibility" has not 
disappeared. One could even hypothesise that maybe 
the poorness of language on digital/visual media 
ends up making us more appreciative. Every time I 
re-read LD, I still linger over phrases, over and 
over in appreciation of their sensitivity.

Le 02/05/10 16:19, Charles Sligh a écrit :
> Many thanks for posting Steiner's review of Durrell's language,
> Sumantra.  I especially appreciate Steiner's attention to the
> impoverishment of taste and the lack of spontaneity in critical judgment:
>> "Hence a writer like Durrell, with his Shakespearean and Joycean
>> delight in the sheer abundance and sensuous variety of speech, may
>> strike one as mannered or precious. But the fault lies with our
>> impoverished sensibility."
> I think Steiner's ventriloquism has a point.  He forecasts the routine
> objections to Durrell's prose in the /Quartet/--that the whole thing is
> "mannered" or "precious."  Yes, certainly, many authorities have and
> will continue to dismiss Durrell's style on those grounds.  And that is
> the point of my disagreement with such programmatic and moralizing
> critics.  I would disagree about the terms of judgment, asking them,
> "What, precisely, is wrong about writing in a /mannered/ or /precious/
> style?  Why, precisely, is there one style correct for writing
> imaginative prose fiction?  How do you know that something else is wrong?"
> That question cuts the ground out from under moralizing critics who
> would insist that Style is Truth, that language somehow conveys the
> Thing Itself rather than an impression or suggestion of things, that
> Durrell should put away his /aquarelle/-technique and his embossed cases
> of male jewels, and that a writer should always roll up his sleeves
> write in terms of a manly, clean, pure, and aerobic style.  Yes, the
> critics of Modernism were every bit as earnest and missionary as the
> critics of the Victorian moment, and in general 20th century critical
> taste was much less forgiving and allowing of what "made the grade."
> This quest for a moral style of writing is truly absurd.  Realism is not
> the only mode of understanding the world or entertaining the mind.  If
> so, we would lose a great many strangely mannered and precious things,
> such as /Hamlet/ and /Antony and Cleopatra/ and /The Tempest,/ the
> prophetic works of Blake, Coleridge's "Kublai Khan," Mary Shelley's
> /Frankenstein/, Byron's /Cain/ and /Manfred/, /Wuthering Heights/,
> /Atalanta in Calydon/, the tales of Le Fanu, Poe, Dunsany, Machen, and
> Lovecraft, four or five chapters of /Ulysses/ and the whole of the
> /Wake/, Peake's /Gormenghast/ and Eddison's /Ouroboros/ and Pynchon's
> /Gravity's Rainbow/.  What a holocaust.
> Excess can be as delightful as /ascesis/ can be bracing.  It is really
> not so hard to open one's self to enjoying a variety of styles.   The
> important thing to learn is to appreciate each thing in its own terms as
> well as in terms of traditions.  If the question of style is rephrased,
> moving from a discussion of literary styles to a discussion of musical
> styles, the absurdity of the objection becomes more clear.
> Charles

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