[ilds] Durrell and Heritage

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Tue Feb 8 19:23:42 PST 2011

I tend to agree with Rony's view about the importance of the academy in keeping Lawrence Durrell's books alive and published, especially in today's dwindling book market.  James is right about the fickle tastes of critics and how authors fall in and out of favor.  Cultural factors also play a part — writers who're fortunate enough to catch a wave, as Jack Kerouac did.  But the suddenness of Durrell's rise and fall has always puzzled me.  This is not a good omen.  Recall that for a while James Gould Cozzens was a sensation in American letters.  In 1948, his Guard of Honor won a Pulitzer.  In 1957, his By Love Possessed enjoyed tremendous success, became an instant bestseller, and some critics called it "the Great American Novel."  There was talk of a Nobel Prize.  Who reads or remembers Cozzens today?  He died in 1978, not that long ago.  His books are barely in print.  Does anyone think the Library of America will acknowledge his worth, as it has Kerouac's?  Hardly.  I fear Durrell's reputation follows this pattern of rapid success and sudden decline.  Why?  Are we dealing with a cultural shift in tastes or trends, as James suggests?  Or something more fundamental, a critical reevaluation, the discovery that all that glitters is not gold?  Anyway, it's the duty of those academics devoted to Durrell to prove their colleagues wrong.  And yes, Charles, I'm reversing my position.


On Feb 7, 2011, at 10:09 PM, Rony Alfandary wrote:

> Bruce,
> I think that there lies the clue - Durrell's presnence, or absence, from University courses. if Durrell is not taught, he is not sold, his books don't get reprints etc. and he slowly disappears, only to be found in 2nd bookshops. how is a young man of 2011 to stumble across the Quartet? he (she) simply won't and therefore will turn to the books on the shelf. Similar thing has happened to Miller and to Cortazar. i think it is no coincidence. i believe there is something quite upsetting (in a positive sense) in their work and therefore resists popularisation. i am not optimistic. see how great cultures have disappeared from the world, leaving no signs behind , only rumours (and mythologies). 

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