[ilds] two-fisted what?

Ken Gammage Ken.Gammage at directed.com
Thu Feb 3 09:40:45 PST 2011

There are probably a few people on the list who have read almost everything Durrell wrote, but I would venture that many of us have gaps. I haven’t read Pied Piper or The Black Book yet – but Grove’s praise makes me want to soon.

Parts of Durrell’s oeuvre I have read many times: especially Prospero, The Quartet and the Quintet. It gives me great pleasure to revisit favorite books – like seeing an old friend.

Grove, I wanted to comment on this: “That Shelley was a significant figure is undeniable, but whether he was a great poet is and should be open to debate.” I really don’t think it’s debatable that he was a great poet – what’s more to the point is our personal preference and whether we enjoy reading Shelley or not. I personally do very much, but again, some of his poems I read over and over while others I leave alone.

-- Ken

From: ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca [mailto:ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca] On Behalf Of gkoger at mindspring.com
Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2011 7:45 AM
To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
Subject: Re: [ilds] two-fisted what?


Perhaps I'm not reverential enough of received opinion, but these matters really aren't carved in stone. That Shelley was a significant figure is undeniable, but whether he was a great poet is and should be open to debate. We are able to measure the speed of light with precision, but to state the obvious, questions of literary worth come down to taste and value judgement. Of course such judgements tend to coalesce around particular figures, sometimes for a great length of time, but to assume that in our particular age we have arrived at exactly the correct evaluations is pretty presumptuous.

Thanks to a combination of luck, strength of will, and persuasive friends (Miller), Durrell avoided being molded into the standard article. In a sense, every great individual creates himself or herself, and for me, The Black Book is Durrell's record of such a creation.

I think that Eliot's opinion has certainly been borne out by time, but as I mentioned in my last post, I really would like to hear from others. Am I the only one on the list to think that The Black Book is an exciting and remarkable achievement?

-----Original Message-----
From: Bruce Redwine
Sent: Feb 2, 2011 4:26 PM
To: gkoger at mindspring.com, ilds at lists.uvic.ca
Cc: Bruce Redwine
Subject: Re: [ilds] two-fisted what?


I think T. S. Eliot was throwing out an opinion which was ill-considered and has not been borne out by time.  As evidence of his fallibility, Eliot didn't think much of the English Romantics, Shelley in particular, and criticized Hamlet for lack of an "objective correlative," considering it "an artistic failure."  Great poets don't always make great critics.


On Feb 2, 2011, at 2:17 PM, gkoger at mindspring.com<mailto:gkoger at mindspring.com> wrote:

Since we're throwing around opinions, I guess I'll weigh in.

Although the recent republication of Durrell's first two novels makes the line of his development a little clearer, The Black Book still reads to me today like a marvellous debut. I wish I could summon a tenth of its intelligence, verbal exhuberance, and just plain energy. I find T.S. Eliot's comments (taken from Ian's biography) on the book both accurate and prescient:

"Lawrence Durrell's The black book is the first piece of work by a new English writer to give me any hope for the future of prose fiction. If he has been influenced by any writers of my generation, the influences have been digested, and he has produced something different. One test of the book's quality, for me, is the way in which reminiscences of it keep turning up in my mind: evocations of South London or of the Adriatic, or of individual characters. What is still more unusual is the sense of pattern and organisation of moods which emerges gradually during the reading, and remains in the mind afterwards. The black book is not a scrap-book, but a carefully executed whole. There is nothing of the second-hand literary about the material; but what is most unusual is the structure the author has made of it."

What does everyone else think?

-----Original Message-----
From: Bruce Redwine
Sent: Feb 2, 2011 1:05 PM
To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca<mailto:ilds at lists.uvic.ca>
Cc: Bruce Redwine
Subject: Re: [ilds] two-fisted what?


Yes, it's hard to make sense of the whole book, for me anyway.  To be frank, I find Durrell's "attack," if such, a lot of rather cheap shots at his literary predecessors:  Keats and Shelley, two that I picked up on.  A respected scholar of LD tells me that I'm wrongheaded and have this completely wrong.  I think not.  So, I guess you're saying that the Lawrence Durrell of The Black Book was full of hot air, which was my original contention.


On Feb 2, 2011, at 11:14 AM, William Godshalk wrote:

Durrell asks his reader to "recognize [the book] for what it is:  a two-fisted attack on literature by an angry young man of the thirties."

And I respond: it doesn't seem very two-fisted to me. More like pudding than like a few rounds of literary combat.


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