[ilds] Eclectic Sets

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Thu Feb 10 10:34:16 PST 2011


Excellent point about the demographics of Durrell's audience, the "eclectic sets."  Durrell has a protean talent, but his unique "voice" remains constant.  I recognize him in no matter what genre he chooses to disguise himself.


On Feb 10, 2011, at 9:55 AM, Charles Sligh wrote:

> 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.
> Ilyas:
> 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 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

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