[ilds] Buttons?

Richard Pine rpinecorfu at yahoo.com
Sat Sep 18 00:27:51 PDT 2010

As far as I understand it, because he gave the woman in question an undertaking 
not to reveal her identity. An honourable course of action, but no doubt 
frustrating for voyeurs anxious to know the (w)hole truth. Regrettable that Ian 
doesn't seem to be part of this group. RP

From: Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
Cc: Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
Sent: Fri, September 17, 2010 9:32:47 PM
Subject: [ilds] Buttons?

More doubt, more mystery.  Now, why would MacNiven do that?  Durrell's other 
romantic interests get identified, at least one adulterous — so, why not 
"Buttons?"  I'll speculate and assume she is real. 

As gleaned from Durrell's letters, his sketch of Buttons is not flattering.  He 
seems to describe her as some prototype of Cunégonde, that "Latex doll of great 
beauty," who appears at the end of CVG (pp. 188ff).  Cunégonde is not unique in 
Durrell's fiction; she has an antecedent in Justine.  It's worthwhile to quote 
Da Capo on this matter, "All my ancestors went wrong here in the head.  My 
father also.  He was a great womanizer.  When he was very old he had a model of 
the perfect woman built in rubber — life-size.  She could be filled with hot 
water in the winter.  She was strikingly beautiful.  He called her Sabina after 
his mother, and took her everywhere" (p. 34).  Lots of echoes and reverberations 
here.  Sabina/Sabine.  Moreover, in an astonishing bit of life imitating art, Da 
Capo describes LD himself as an old man, a womanizer and fictional doll-maker. 
 In Justine, Clea says, "There are only three things to be done with a woman . . 
. You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature" (p. 22).  Is 
Buttons, another doll-like companion, always on call for sexual services, is she 
being turned into "literature?"  My point — a woman may not want to be known, 
accurate or not, as merely a sexual plaything — and a dirty one at that. 


On Sep 17, 2010, at 12:14 AM, Richard Pine wrote:

'Buttons' is - or was - a real person - the only person whose identity MacNiven 
refuses to reveal, even to persistent enquirers. RP
From: Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
>To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>Cc: "gkoger at mindspring.com" <gkoger at mindspring.com>; Bruce Redwine 
><bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>
>Sent: Fri, September 17, 2010 2:22:10 AM
>Subject: Re: [ilds] Out of school
>I think we're in agreement here.  "Buttons" could be real, but she also seems to 
>me fabricated, at least in part, starting with her moniker, which is the kind of 
>nickname someone would give a cat or another pet, like the fictional Cunégonde 
>in Caesar's Vast Ghost.  Then there's also her resemblance to characters in 
>Durrell's fiction — Melissa in the Quartet and Sabine in Monsieur (p. 41), that 
>grimy version of a gypsy, who also flits in and out of a story.  You could say 
>he's basing these characters on real examples, but the recurrent pattern makes 
>me suspicious.  Yes, Durrell was a fabulator, but quite possibly a far greater 
>one than Robert Scholes imagines.  And by that I mean Durrell actually lived his 
>On Sep 16, 2010, at 1:51 PM, Godshalk, William (godshawl) wrote:
>Yes! Room 13 in all good hotels, does not exist. Is Buttons also nonexistent? An 
>>W. L. Godshalk *
>>Department of English    *           *
>>University of Cincinnati*   * Stellar Disorder  *
>>OH 45221-0069 *  *
>>From: ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca [ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca] On Behalf 
>>Of gkoger at mindspring.com [gkoger at mindspring.com]
>>Sent: Thursday, September 16, 2010 2:01 PM
>>To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>>Subject: Re: [ilds] Out of school
>>That's very well put! And isn't there a novel here that one of us should write? 
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: Bruce Redwine
>>Sent: Sep 16, 2010 11:34 AM
>>To: Charles-Sligh at utc.eduilds at lists.uvic.ca
>>Cc: Bruce Redwine
>>Subject: [ilds] Out of school
>>Thanks.  If by "out of school" you mean "divulge secrets," then let's divulge 
>>more.  Seems to me this is the whole purpose of literary and biographical 
>>analysis.  "Buttons" flits in and out of Durrell's last years like that other 
>>"waif of the . . . littoral" (Bal. 140), Melissa.  Buttons is even described as 
>>having a small, dark, emaciated resemblance to the Greek dancer.  Maybe she too 
>>is "phthisic."  Why Room 13?  Is there in fact or ever was a Room 13 in the 
>>Hôtel Royal, Montparnasse?  Some hotels don't even have a Room 13 because of 
>>superstitiousness.  Durrell liked numerology, like his other dabblings in the 
>>occult; he also fantasized a lot, possibly lied.  Eve said he was unreliable 
>>when it came to facts.  She described a fabulator:  an "entertainer" who drew 
>>people into "his world," who would also "make things up on the spur of the 
>>moment to suit the occasion, [though] he believed what he said" (Haag, City of 
>>Memory, p. 250).  I'm wondering if something like all that is going on here with 
>>Buttons and Room 13.  Durrell's last years — don't they read like one of his 

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