[ilds] Why no "Collected Stories"?

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Sat Feb 12 05:22:36 PST 2011


Important questions.  My guess is that Durrell wrote the short pieces to make money.  Those he claimed to turn out quickly and without much thought.  His real energy went into poetry and the major fiction, which took time and research.  His travel literature probably falls into the former category, roughly.  This begs the question why he didn't treat seriously short fiction, as some authors do (here I'm thinking of William Trevor in particular).  Again, I'm guessing, but poetry and big prose seem to have satisfied different psychological needs.  I'd argue he used poetry as some kind of catharsis, a way to work through personal problems, exposed them, but at the same time keep them secret (hence the cryptic nature of the poetry).  The major fiction, on the other hand, satisfied, in part, his literary ambitions to turn out works of "size," i.e., to develop his own philosophy, mythology, world, Weltanshauung — whatever you want to call it.


On Feb 11, 2011, at 4:18 PM, Ken Gammage wrote:

> I really enjoyed Durrell's pieces from Holiday magazine collected in Spirit of Place. Wondering about the short stories (like "Judith," the source material for the 1966 movie.) Did Durrell not write many stories, or is there a more interesting explanation?
> -- Ken
> -----Original Message-----
> From: ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca [mailto:ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca] On Behalf Of Marc Piel
> Sent: Friday, February 11, 2011 3:01 PM
> To: Charles-Sligh at utc.edu; ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> Subject: Re: [ilds] White Eagles Over Serbia
> Very well spoken Charles.
> I would just like to point out to Richard Pine 
> that "Judith" was actually published in English 
> and in French not to mention the film.
> B.R. Marc
> Le 11/02/11 19:38, Charles Sligh a écrit :
>>  On 2/11/11 11:24 AM, Richard Pine wrote:
>>>        The reason why 'White Eagles' or, for that matter, 'Dark
>>>        Labyrinth', 'Pope Joan', 'Antrobus', 'Judith' (altho the
>>>        latter hasn't yet been published, but is discussed in my
>>>        'Mindscape') etc etc, don't come up for serious discussion is,
>>>        I think, due a reluctance on the part of 'Durrellians' to
>>>        acknowledge that there was a LD and a 'Charles Norden', the
>>>        latter of whom H Miller shamed LD into discarding as a
>>>        nom-de-plume for his 'minor mythologies' - the second-string
>>>        potboilers, 'makeweights', etc. that came in between the major
>>>        works.
>> I think that this point chimes with what I was trying to say about
>> Durrell's eclectic output creating eclectic audiences, Richard.
>> Publishers prefer to market authors in reasonably discrete categories or
>> pigeonholes. Whether they admit it or not, literary historians and
>> critics tend to work in something of the same way. As Walter Pater told
>> his students, "our failure is to form habits," stereotyping the world so
>> we can no longer discriminate the rarities right in front of our eyes.
>> When T. S. Eliot encouraged Durrell to determine once and for all
>> whether he was a "poet" or a "novelist," he was thinking in terms of a
>> conscientious editor and in terms of the received 'wisdom' among poets
>> -- i.e., that spending energy in too many forms and genres would lead a
>> young writer to dissolution of poetic energy. That advice may seem
>> quaint and moralizing in retrospect, ringing weirdly like Goethe's idea
>> of the writer saving, not spending, the fund of his creative seed.
>> Miller's late 1930s attempt to discipline Durrell to focus on "Lawrence
>> Durrell" rather than the "schizophrenic" Durrell/Norden may be similar.
>> /Contra/ TSE and HM, I think that we are extremely fortunate that
>> Lawrence Durrell followed his own tack, either by inclination or
>> necessity. In terms of genre and style, Durrell's writings are decidedly
>> eclectic, defying the stereotypical, disciplining efforts of mentors,
>> mass marketers, and historians. When it comes to "labeling" and
>> "categorizing," the works of Joyce and Woolf and Faulkner and
>> _______(fill in the blank here with the name of most any other canonical
>> writer of the 20th Century) ______ give us the appearance of known,
>> comfortable, containable quantities.
>> Indeed, in terms of scope, genre, and diversity, the storyline of James
>> Joyce's body of published works looks conceptually simple when set on
>> the shelf next to the storyline of Lawrence Durrell's body of published
>> works. And that is an important point. The narrative of Joyce's career
>> -- running from /Dubliners/ to /A Portrait of the Artist as a Young
>> Man///, /Ulysses/, and /Finnegans Wake/ -- did in fact become the
>> template for evaluating and narrating the careers of subsequent
>> ambitious writers of the 20th Century. (Never mind the fact that
>> /Chamber Music/, /Exiles/, &c. tend to be smoothed out as intermediary
>> or aberrations.) Cf. the silly post-1952 questions about why Ellison was
>> unable to follow up on /Invisible Man/. As if any follow-up was
>> necessary, artistically or morally! Critics are most intolerant of
>> differently-shaped careers or eclecticism.
>> I would leave it to be tested by others whether or not this idea of
>> eclecticism holds true in any significant way for the fuller span of
>> Durrell's published works. But I suspect that it does hold true. And I
>> would go further, suggesting that this broad eclecticism of genre and
>> form across the published works might have a corollary in terms of the
>> characteristic details that we find /within/ each of the particular
>> works//. For example, consider the eclecticism and heterogeneity of
>> prose style, narrative form, and generic mode that we find within
>> /Prospero's Cell/ or /The Alexandria Quartet/. What an abundance we find
>> packed away within each of those!
>> To the best of my ability, I try to be humble and accept the writings of
>> Lawrence Durrell on their own terms. I can certainly see their strong
>> differences from the more disciplined, selective output of, say, the
>> writings of James Joyce. And I think that those peculiar differences may
>> be essential to an understanding of what Durrell achieves, the
>> particular pleasures that his writing offers to us. But I certainly do
>> not think that Durrell is in any way "off-track," or somehow "lacking,"
>> just because he does not fit in with the vagaries of the book publishing
>> world or some absurdly projected template of "the standard career of the
>> Modernist" &c.
>> Like Swift's Projectors in the Academy, the Fault rests with us, not
>> with the Cucumber from which we attempt to extract Sunbeams.
>> C&c.
>> --
>> ********************************************
>> Charles L. Sligh
>> Assistant Professor
>> Department of English
>> University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
>> charles-sligh at utc.edu
>> ********************************************

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