[ilds] Mention of the Alexandria Quartet in an Interesting and Controversial New Book

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Mon Jun 2 11:19:17 PDT 2014


Billy,

I don't see much of a distinction here.  As I said before, homosexual feelings need not be consummated to show a disposition to homosexuality (e.g., Thomas Mann).  This is why Durrell's term "tendencies" is so appropriate and well chosen (it appears five times in the Quartet, all in the context of Scobie, whom I take as one of Durrell's personae).  A basic question is — what does homosexuality mean?  You seem to say it must include sexual consummation.  I disagree.  There are shades of homosexuality.  As many observe, we all have some of it in varying degrees.  Under the right circumstances, we could all be gay (which I take as William Styron's meaning).  Styron was referring to his time as a Marine officer in the Pacific during WWII.  He's talking about "male bonding," to use the technical term.  Is "male bonding" a type of homosexuality?  I would say yes, having been in the military and experienced it.  I think Durrell was fully aware of all these shades of meaning.

Bruce



On Jun 2, 2014, at 10:11 AM, William Apt <billyapt at gmail.com> wrote:

> Bruce:
>  
> I don't doubt as true what you say, but DHL's point should be well taken objectively without regard to his own tendencies.  His observation is profound and, I believe, quite accurate. Applied to LD: his relationships with male friends - like Miller - likely had the sort of depth, intensity and love that from the outside might be mistaken for, but was not, homosexual.
>  
> BIlly 
> 
> On Mon, Jun 2, 2014 at 10:41 AM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:
> Billy, good point about DHL, but his work occasionally dips into homoeroticism.  Read Lawrence's Women in Love (1920) and look closely at the friendship between Rupert Burkin and Gerald Crich, in particularly the chapter titled "Gladitorial."  Ken Russell's 1969 film brings out the sexuality of that scene quite well.  I seem to recall (but may be wrong) that Oliver Reed, who played Crich, could only do the scene drunk — it was that bold (for its day, anyway).  I would say Lawrence had "tendencies."
> 
> Bruce
> 
> 
> On Jun 1, 2014, at 5:39 PM, William Apt <billyapt at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
>> Bruce:
>> 
>> DH Lawrence observed that deep and intense friendships between heterosexual men are not much different than erotic relationships - only the physical aspect is missing. Perhaps it's as simple as that. And remember: LD was a big fan of DH Lawrence. 
>> 
>> All the best as always, 
>> 
>> Billy
>> 
>> WILLIAM APT
>> Attorney at Law
>> 812 San Antonio St, Ste 401
>> Austin TX 78701
>> 512/708-8300
>> 512/708-8011 FAX
>> 
>> On Jun 1, 2014, at 12:28 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:
>> 
>>> Billy,
>>> 
>>> Thanks for the response and encouragement.  Let me answer your questions.  Michael Haag told me he didn't think Durrell was gay.  I assume he would also say no to repressed homosexuality.  My guess is that Ian MacNiven would agree with Haag on both counts.  I have no idea what Eve Cohen thought.  Sappho Jane did not mention her father having homosexual tendencies, repressed or not, in the excerpts of her diaries and letters published in Granta.
>>> 
>>> Joseph A. Boone's article is "Mappings of Male Desire in Durrell's Alexandria Quartet," South Atlantic Quarterly 88 (1989), 73-106.  It's good.  James corrected me on attributing repressed homosexuality to Boone's argument.  He's right.  My memory was faulty.  Boone doesn't explicitly say that — he sticks to the text — but I think this is quibbling.  Boone talks about a strange relationship between Durrell and Miller, especially as it began in 1935 (p. 75), and the implications of the sexual metaphor, "man-size piece."  He should have gone further.  I think what we have going on here is something similar to the culture of homosexuality in Classical Greece — the older male (erastes) taking on a younger male (eromenos) as his partner/beloved.  Initially Miller is the dominant partner, later the roles reverse.  The Greek terms are Kenneth Dover's in his Greek Homosexuality (1978).  I am a little surprised Boone doesn't make the analogy.  Recall that Durrell's pseudonym in Panic Spring (1937) is Charles Norden, that his boat on Corfu is the Norden, and that Van Norden is Miler's friend in Tropic of Cancer.
>>> 
>>> This topic of Durrell's sexuality/homosexuality has been discussed before on the List.  Undoubtedly some are bored by it.  For more detail, I refer you to the post:  Miller's "Numinous Cock" v. Durrell's "Man-size Piece" (24 March 2011).  The exchange was largely between James and myself.  Neither of us have changed our positions.  Here's my conclusion in 2011:
>>> 
>>> Am I arguing that Durrell and Miller had a homosexual relationship?  No.  Am I arguing that Durrell was in fact homosexual?  No.  I am pointing out certain patterns in their relationship, which suggest an erotic involvement or attachment.   This homoerotic affinity need not have been consummated to be valid.  I am also suggesting the obvious that LGD had a very complex personality and that any attempt to characterize him as, say, utterly and robustly heterosexual is trite and untrue.  In a personal communication, Dr. Anthony Durrell, a practicing psychiatrist, has compared LGD's personality to an onion skin of many layers, and David Green has aptly noted that the photograph of Durrell as a French onion seller fits Dr. Durrell's analogy (see Gordon Bowker, Through the Dark Labyrinth: A Biography of Lawrence Durrell, London 1997:  fig. of Durrell in London, 1985).  I agree with both of them.
>>> 
>>> 
>>> Bruce
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> On May 31, 2014, at 3:36 PM, William Apt <billyapt at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> 
>>>> Well argued, my friend! But don't people tend to gravitate to their own kind? I don't recall there being a great number of homosexuals in LD's inner circle. In fact most were quite straight and anything but asexual. Contrast this with the highly closeted Jack Kerouac, almost all of whose inner circle were gay, despite his life long cultivation of a solid heterosexual public image. 
>>>> 
>>>> I'm curious what others, who knew LD, have to say? MacNiven, for example?  What about Haag, having known Eve Cohen so well? 
>>>> 
>>>> Finally, LD got involved with some beautiful, sexy women, and had as friends others. If he was gay, he certainly had a great heterosexual picker! 
>>>> 
>>>> Finally, trying to decide if LD was gay based only on highly tenuous circumstantial evidence will be as difficult as the attempt to determine if TE Lawrence was gay or just a severely repressed asexual personality. Good luck!
>>>> 
>>>> Billy
>>>> 
>>>> WILLIAM APT
>>>> Attorney at Law
>>>> 812 San Antonio St, Ste 401
>>>> Austin TX 78701
>>>> 512/708-8300
>>>> 512/708-8011 FAX
>>>> 
>>>> On May 31, 2014, at 2:10 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:
>>>> 
>>>>> Billy, thanks for the response.  Any evidence for Durrell's repressed homosexuality?  No, certainly none that would satisfy a court of law.  But to be argumentative, MacNiven bases his biography in part on what Durrell told him, and would you expect Lawrence Durrell to admit homosexual tendencies, especially given the opprobrium attached to such a confession?  (By the way, I don't mean to disparage MacNiven's tremendous work — I have the greatest respect for what he accomplished.)  My evidence is circumstantial and largely based on Durrell's writings and the prominence of homosexuality as a topic of treatment.  As D. H. Lawrence says, "Never trust the artist.  Trust the tale."  I'm much in line with what Boone writes.  Here, of course, the big objection is what literary critics are fond of making — namely, don't confuse the author with his or her writings!  There's some validity to this, but I don't always buy the objection and attribute it to the prejudices of New Criticism, whose ideas still linger and influence.  So, I'm saying, as Boone seems to suggest, let's look at Durrell's writings and his obsessions and see where all that leads us.  Finally, remember the lesson of Thomas Mann, author of Death in Venice.  For a long time, Mann's treatment of homosexuality was analyzed as a literary trope (much as Durrell's is).  After all, Mann was an upright German, married with a large family, and no inkling of homosexuality.  But as Anthony Heilbut shows in his biography, Thomas Mann:  Eros and Literature (1996), Mann had repressed homosexual tendencies.  Death in Venice and Gustav von Aschenbach's infatuation with the boy Tadzio is based on Mann's own personal experience.  I see something similar going on with Durrell.
>>>>> 
>>>>> Bruce
>>>>> 
>>>>> 
>>>>> 
>>>>> On May 31, 2014, at 11:26 AM, William Apt <billyapt at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>> 
>>>>>> Bruce: 
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> I seem to recall that, according to MacNiven's bio, when LD was confronted with the opportunity for homoerotic encounters while in prep school in England, he realized he was unstimulated by boys. That is typically the hallmark of a heterosexual mindset. Do you have any evidence other than LD's occasional bad behavior toward women that might otherwise support your theory? 
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> Billy
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> WILLIAM APT
>>>>>> Attorney at Law
>>>>>> 812 San Antonio St, Ste 401
>>>>>> Austin TX 78701
>>>>>> 512/708-8300
>>>>>> 512/708-8011 FAX
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> On May 31, 2014, at 10:40 AM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:
>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> Merrianne,
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> Thanks.  Some years ago Boone wrote a provocative article on homosexuality in the Quartet.  It begins by discussing Durrell's reference to Tropic of Cancer as a "man-size piece of work" in his famous introductory letter to Miller.  Boone took this as an example of Durrell's repressed homosexuality, if I recall correctly.  That is roughly equivalent to "you've shown me yours, now I'll show you mine."  Years ago I pursued this line of argument on the ILDS List and was roundly scoffed at.  "Durrell is gay!  Nonsense!"  Personally I think he was a repressed homosexual, which might account for some of his strange and violent behavior.  The guy was pretty screwed up.  Perhaps we can resume this discussion.
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> Bruce
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> Sent from my iPhone
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> On May 31, 2014, at 6:31 AM, "Merrianne" <timlot at comcast.net> wrote:
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>> Before attending the OMG conference in Vancouver, I purchased a recently published book – The Homoerotics of Orientalism by Joseph Allen Boone, published by Columbia University Press. The book is generating some controversy. Having spent many years researching 19th century orientalist art, I am finding this book very interesting, but not your usual summer read. It weaves together many diverse threads – art, literature, gender, sexuality, colonialism, mass marketing, etc., and introduces some unique analysis. Illustrations range from traditional Ingres nudes to Norman Mailer as a pharaoh on the cover of New York magazine.
>>>>>>>>  
>>>>>>>> Included in the chapter “Epic Ambitions and Epicurean Appetites” is a subchapter titled “The Return of the Repressed in Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet” that focuses on the depiction of Darley. Footnote 70 for this chapter cites James Gifford’s “The Frontiers of Love: Sexual and Territorial Ambiguity in Lawrence Durrell’s Monsieur.”
>>>>>>>>  
>>>>>>>> Bottom line – this is a book that some of you might want to peruse. For me, it provides new insight into the many “textbook” images of orientalism I have enjoyed over the years, and introduces me to many “new” contemporary photographs, paintings, and ideas.
>>>>>>>>  
>>>>>>>> Best,
>>>>>>>> Merrianne Timko
>>>>>>>>  
>>>>>>>>  
>>> 
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> WILLIAM APT
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