[ilds] TSE & BB

Charles Sligh Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
Thu Feb 3 09:56:46 PST 2011

On 2/3/11 10:44 AM, gkoger at mindspring.com wrote:

>         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?

I would make an observation about how much context and chronology matter 
for our appreciation of /The Black Book/ and TSE's evaluation.

That is, TSE read /The Black Book/ in a particular way and time and 
place -- in May/June 1937, in a bound typescript delivered to his 
Russell Square office, <http://www.faber.co.uk/archive/asset/122849/> 
where day-in, day out he read through reams of hum-drum submissions.

I also note that TSE comments on LD's literary influences as fully 
"digested."  No matter how well-digested or under-cooked 21st century 
gourmands find the dish, TSE, no less than HM, is in some sense 
fashioning a literary lineage as he attends /The Black Book/.

TSE was also genuinely generous in many ways, a good mentor who 
encouraged LD to follow his own instincts and artistic commitments in 
publishing /The Back Book/.  Faber could not publish the book uncut.  
TSE advised LD to follow his own way for his own best ends.  That is fair.

TSE also asked LD to consider whether he was a poet or a novelist.  
Those two vocations may not necessarily be exclusive, but as an 
observation TSE's question is incisive, reminding us about something 
important regarding LD's style.  Seen within that frame, /The Black 
Book/ would be something striking and new and very much worth boosting.

On the other hand, I think that most everyone here on the list must 
consider /The Black Book/ with LD's achievement in /The Alexandria 
Quartet/ and the island books already in some way intervening.  This 
point is true, I think, even if the reader somehow read /The Black Book/ 
first, then the /Quartet/.  The publication of the /Quartet/, or a 
reader's knowledge of the /Quartet/, cannot but influence the 
conversation and process of evaluation.

My preference is for the /Quartet/, which has given me most pleasure.  
But I try to honor each work on its own peculiar aesthetic merits.  And 
humility is necessary.  The problems I find with /The Black Book/ may in 
fact highlight much more about my own readerly limitations than anything 
about the shortcomings of /The Black Book/ or young LD.


Charles L. Sligh
Assistant Professor
Department of English
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
charles-sligh at utc.edu

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