[ilds] Alcoholism

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Wed Nov 25 07:48:57 PST 2015


Welcome to the listserv Rick!

The alcoholic writer can be a cliche mainly because there are so many 
ready examples (Hemingway, Faulkner, Joyce, Djuna Barnes, Lowry, &c.). 
Often there can be a tendency to diagnose from a distance 
(self-medicating for depression & such), but I'm dubious of those kinds 
of conversations with dead people.  I've never been sure how to read the 
matter in the fiction for Durrell -- for Hemingway, "drunk" or "tight" 
carry broader meanings, almost allegorical, and certainly a conscious 
part of the construction of the text.  I don't really see the same in 
Durrell, although it could be interesting to be convinced otherwise.

There is a bit of shift in alcohol across the works as well.  In /Pied 
Piper of Lovers/ (1935) there isn't much alcohol at all, apart from a 
peculiar cocktail at a party (bunny hug) and a first juvenile 
indulgence.  By /Panic Spring/ (1937), there's an empty bottle of gin, 
but not for Durrell's alter ego Walsh.  From around the same time 
biographically, Theodore Stephanides recounts Durrell and Miller 
discovering a Corfiot cafe with much English gin, to their great 
satisfaction (in Stephanides' memoirs from James Brigham's papers).

After that, all bets are off...  Biographically, MacNiven presents the 
mid-1950s as particularly liquid and the 1980s as especially so, for 
different reasons.

All best,
James

On 2015-11-25 5:40 AM, Rick Schoff wrote:
> As new to the list, I find these discussions fascinating. As I've
> mentioned, I am simply an avid reader of Durrell, and have reread the
> fiction in particular many times. I've read one informative but not
> particularly interesting bigraphy, as well as numerous articles about
> Durrell over the years. I recently found a copy of Richard Pine's
> "Mindscape" and look forward to reading that.
>
> In reading comments by scholars, some of whom spent ime with Durrell,
> and seeing issues raised such as professed unhappiness, boredom,
> violence in fiction and real life, and self-loathing - I couldn't help
> but recall numerous references over the years to Durrell's use of
> alcohol. I often hesitate to read biographical material about artists
> whose work I greatly admire, but having delved a little into Durrell's
> life, I couldn't help wondering what effect Durrell's alleged steady
> drinking might have had on his life and work. I understand he was a
> ferociously intelligent man with boundless energy, who led a
> fascinatingly exotic life. I saw one comment by someone who knew him (I
> don't recall who) that relayed that when writing Durrell lived on the
> 'edge of madness'. I couldn't help but wonder about the psycholgocal
> aspects.
>
> For many reasons, I proffer this issue very tentatively, but my interest
> and curiosity have gotten the better of me. 'Alcohol and the writer' is
> almost a cliche, but I don't find anything of Durrell's cliched. He was
> an original.
>
> - Rick Schoff


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