[ilds] quizz

Charles Sligh Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
Thu Feb 10 09:55:50 PST 2011

On 2/9/11 8:47 PM, Ilyas Khan wrote:

>         I would be interested in your opinion, if any, of LD versus Robertson
>         Davies. They were virtual contemporaries, and both seen (and admired) by
>         their fan base as being utterly under-rated.


Would you say that Robertson Davies wrote in anything like the diversity 
of forms in which Lawrence Durrell wrote?

I think the diversity of Durrell's output is central to understanding 
the peculiarities of his audience dynamics.  Durrell achieved sizable 
and diverse audiences by means of his travel writing, his novels, and 
his poetry.  Some of the time, but not necessarily all the time, the 
audience for Durrell's island books is the same as the audience for his 
prose fiction.  The Durrellian 'demographic' -- if that is the correct 
term -- might be best pictured as a grouping of manifestly eclectic sets.

I do not think that you would find the same eclecticism or patterning 
with the audiences, say, of Woolf, Joyce, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Bellow, 
Nabokov, Pynchon, Rushdie, &c.  For my part, I relish this aspect of 
Durrell's readership.

In addition, Lawrence Durrell achieved something of an authorial 
/mythos/ or legend within his own lifetime.  I am here thinking of the 
moment of boulevard celebrity evocatively imagined by Cortázar in his 
1963 novel, /Rayuela/ (/Hopscotch)/:

        Surrounded by boys in baggy sweaters and delightfully funky
        girls in the smoke of the /cafés/-/crème/ of
        Saint-Germain-des-Prés who read Durrell, Beauvoir, Duras,
        Douassot, Queneau, Sarraute, here I am a Frenchified Argentinian
        (horror of horrors), already beyond the adolescent vogue, the
        cool, with an /Etous-vous fous/? of René Crevel
        anachronistically in my hands, with the whole body of surrealism
        in my memory, with the mark of Antonin Artaud in my pelvis, with
        the /Ionisations/ of Edgard Varèse in my ears, with Picasso in
        my eyes (but I seem to be a Mondrian, at least that's what I've
        been told).  (Chapter 21)

As clearly understood by Cortázar and his first wife, the translator, 
Aurora Bernárdez,/The Alexandria Quartet/ was (and is) an iconic book.  
That is, 'for those who know', displaying /The Alexandria Quartet/ on 
the bookshelf in the flat or on the table at the cafe sets a certain 
tone, implies certain outlooks or understandings, invites certain social 
overtures and outcomes.  How true the book's iconic status holds in 
life, and just how well the bait fetches, any number of the list-serve 
might tell us in their fishing stories.

For eloquent testimony on the iconic aspect of Durrell, cf. not only 
Cortázar's /Rayuela/, but also the artful placing of /Balthazar/ on 
Thandiwe's toilet in John Duigan's charming 1991 film, /Flirting/, which 
is set in New South Wales of 1965.  (Here 
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPiO-JJ_ZPY&feature=related> is the 
moment at 1:21.  Note the use of mirrors to enhance the erotic combat.  
Very smartly done.)  We might also cite Terry Eagleton's vexed memories 
of Durrell's iconic status in Cambridge life of the early 1960s.  
(Otherwise, that review of Ian MacNiven's biography ends up telling us 
far more about Terry Eagleton's way of reading than about Lawrence 
Durrell way of living or writing.)

So there is another question:  Would you say that any particular book of 
Robertson Davies has an iconic status or aura about it in the way that 
/The Alexandria Quartet/ does?


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

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