[ilds] gnomic aorist

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Thu Jun 3 11:23:44 PDT 2010

More than part of Durrell's style, I'd say it's part of Eliot's style
and formal vision, which he got from Pound, and Durrell got from
him...  That lineage, however, strikes me a discomfited in Durrell,
and hence Cavafy had to become the city poet, thereby displacing Eliot
to some degree, or at least distracting us.  Does our gnomic aorist
discussion perhaps point to why Durrell's touch stone for Eliot was
Burnt Norton?  I think too of "The Green Man" (1940):

Four small nouns I put to pasture,
Lambs of cloud on a green paper.
One great verb I dip in ink
for the tortoise who carries the earth:
A grammar of fate like the map of China,
Or as wrinkles sit in the palm of a girl.

I enter my poem like a son's house.
The ancient thought is: nothing will change.
But the nouns are back in the bottle,
I ache and she is warm, was warm, is warm.

Part of why I don't read Durrell for character (kinda like reading
Woolf for plot...) is that I see this play between texts as the real
'character' involved.  I think Durrell was much more concerned with
the texture of his work and its textuality than he was with depicting
genuine human dramas.  He tried characters on in /Pied Piper of
Lovers/ and only really managed one -- whether that's his weakness or
disinterest, I don't know, but once /Panic Spring/ opens, there's a
change, and the genuine human drama matters less.  I'd look to the
poetry for that instead.

Durrell was always after Miller about form, and Miller was doing the
opposite with Durrell over character.  That dispute is telling for
both.  I should also note, by form I don't mean how many books and in
what relation they exist to each other (a quartet vs. a quincunx,
etc...) but more how they textually function, such as in the take off
from Eliot, the notebook recuperations of materials, the repetitions,
or the simple word, phrase, or object repetitions across works.
Durrell's characters spend a lot of time "telling" us various crazy or
high flown things, but the texts "show" something different formally.
That's what draws me to Durrell, not self-identifying with Darley or
the cardboard characters of the books that followed after that, nor
the Gothics who preceded him...


On 3 June 2010 09:03, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:
> Yes.  Gothic Eliot.  James probably has many other examples.
> On Jun 2, 2010, at 6:11 PM, Godshalk, William (godshawl) wrote:
>> " The blue-veined phthisic fingers are moist and languorous."
>> It's a take off from Eliot. Durrell uses it more than once.
>> Is this part of the Durrell style?
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James Gifford, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English and University Core Director
School of English, Philosophy and Humanities
University College: Arts, Sciences, Professional Studies
Fairleigh Dickinson University, Vancouver Campus
Voice: 604-648-4476
Fax: 604-648-4489
E-mail: gifford at fdu.edu

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