[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
        <http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/feb/24/alexandria-quartet-lawrence-durrell-rereading>

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 
<http://simoningsmirror.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/keep-friday-free-were-plotting-the-return-of-lawrence-durrell/>.")

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

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

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