[ilds] Rereading: The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell (Jan Morris)

Charles Sligh charles-sligh at utc.edu
Fri Oct 19 07:06:21 PDT 2012

Dear Sumantra:

A pleasure to see your note.  Find the Jan Morris piece here:

        Rereading: The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell

I took a rather strong position on this curious introduction at the 
British Library this summer.  I do think that the piece is a bit more 
revealing about Jan Morris' special capabilities and limits than about 
Lawrence Durrell's.   (Simon Ings was more direct.  He called the intro 
"a pompous, contemptuous flob 

Morris is a capable reporter, having done fine work in the Venice book 
and the Pax Britannica trilogy.  But I wonder if there is a mismatch of 
her /métier/ and particular aesthetic sensibilities?  Or even an 
out-matching, or an over-reaching?   It really begs the question.

After all, no reader ever walked about with a Jan Morris sentence 
haunting his memory.  (Test case:  There is no such thing as a "Jan 
Morris sentence."  By contrast, cf. "The sea is high again today, with a 
thrilling flush of wind." or "You enter Greece as one might enter a dark 
crystal; the form of things becomes irregular, refracted.")  And no Jan 
Morris book ever changed a reader's life, giving her an urgent reason to 
go live among new peoples, to see their lands, to drink their wine and 
to know their ways.

I also wish Jan Morris had taken actual time and trouble to "re-read" 
/The Alexandria Quartet/.  Her obfuscations and faint praise make it all 
too clear that she had little time for the book, and less sympathy.


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

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