[ilds] ILDS Digest, Vol 103, Issue 18

mail at durrelllibrarycorfu.org mail at durrelllibrarycorfu.org
Thu Nov 26 00:41:32 PST 2015


As a postscript to my message about LD, alcohol and madness, here's the opening of my chapter on TUNC /NUNQUAM, entitled 'SPERECTOMY', for those who don't have access to a copy of the 2nd edition.
The entire book will be available in the New Year online on the soon-to-be-completed new website of the Durrell Library of Corfu, along with Brewster Chamberlin's CHRONOLOGY and other texts
RP 


Sperectomy


After the completion of The Alexandria Quartet, Durrell wassilent as a novelist for eight years. Tuncand Nunquam mark a caesura in the thought patterns whichcharacterise both the Quartet and theQuintet, because Durrell?s mindscapehad deepened and darkened as he came closer to knowing the real nature ofmadness. In these books there is an edge to Durrell?s voice which we do notencounter elsewhere in his work, and which fuels the madness, the rage and thecapacity for revolt which culminates in this Irish refusal. His disillusionwith the modern world led him towards a great act of refusal and, as we haveseen, his notebooks indicate the extent to which he had canvassed despair.Madness pervades Tunc and Nunquam as surely and as thoroughly aspassion invests the Quartet, markingDurrell?s return to the central problem of Hamlet and thus the need tounderstand history as the record of man?s intercourse with woman, the lexiconof culture. Together, these novels constitute a statement about writing which marksa turning-point in the relationship of literature to life. 
This chapter is concerned primarilywith Durrell?s methods in approaching the nature of the despair which heexperienced in the face of the collapse of culture and, with it, the collapseor excision of hope.[1]Partly Durrell knew this to be inevitable, and partly he still believed in the?miracle?: in Nunquam Julian insists,like any Irishman, ?If one does not live on hopes in this life what else isthere to live on?? (Nunquam 142);whereas in Quinx we will be told ?byhoping, wishing and foreseeing we are doing something contrary to nature. Cogito is okay but spero makes man out of the featureless animal of Aristotle: goneastray in the forebrain? (Quintet1195). When, however, in the ?Postface? to Nunquam,he said that the book was an attempt to place a signpost in ?the notion ofculture? (Nunquam 285), Durrellintended to encapsulate the perhaps greater notion of the metaphor <man =woman> as the fons et origo ofculture: 

You can touch the quiddity, the nub ofthe idea of a culture only if you realise that it comes out of an act ofassociation of which the primal genetic blueprint in the strictest biologicalsense is the uniting of the couple, man and woman. In the compact and the seed(Nunquam 87). 

?Woman? is thus the question to which the answer,in theory, is ?man? and vice versa,but despite Durrell?s pursuit of Blake?s ?lineaments of gratified desire? inthe Quartet, it is only in The Revolt that this becomesself-evident. 
The ?revolt? or ?refusal? is predicatedin the idea of a culture which has degenerated into mere civilisation.Association, which we have seen as the essential condition of the field, beginsin the copula of the verb ?to be? and is proven in the courts of love. For Durrell,this represented the key to all human endeavour, and in particular to that ofwriting, to the imagination. Without the twin elements of ?the seed? (sexualignition) and ?the compact? (mutual intellection), man would hang as theimpotent conjunction between principles. As the world-expression of theprinciple of association, the ubiquitous ?Firm? of Merlins embodies anuxorious, voracious impotence masquerading as the svelte efficiency of an artform. Against it, the man-principle, ?Felix? (happy), and the woman-principle,?Benedicta? (blessed), exercise their refusal, and in the face of it theyplunge into madness. 


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[1] Cf. S. Rushdie, Midnight?s Children (London: Cape, 1981) p. 437.


-----Original Message-----
From: ilds-request at lists.uvic.ca [mailto:ilds-request at lists.uvic.ca]
Sent: Wednesday, November 25, 2015 03:00 PM
To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
Subject: ILDS Digest, Vol 103, Issue 18

Send ILDS mailing list submissions to	ilds at lists.uvic.caTo subscribe or unsubscribe via the World Wide Web, visit	https://lists.uvic.ca/mailman/listinfo/ildsor, via email, send a message with subject or body 'help' to	ilds-request at lists.uvic.caYou can reach the person managing the list at	ilds-owner at lists.uvic.caWhen replying, please edit your Subject line so it is more specificthan "Re: Contents of ILDS digest..."Today's Topics: 1. Re: Indian Mertaphysics (Rick Schoff) 2. Alcoholism (James Gifford) 3. Re: Alcoholism (Bruce Redwine)----------------------------------------------------------------------Message: 1Date: Wed, 25 Nov 2015 08:40:40 -0500From: Rick Schoff To: james.d.gifford at gmail.com, ilds at lists.uvic.caSubject: Re: [ilds] Indian MertaphysicsMessage-ID:	Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"As new to the list, I find these discussions fascinating. As I'vementioned, I am simply an avid reader of Durrell, and have reread thefiction in particular many times. I've read one informative but notparticularly interesting bigraphy, as well as numerous articles aboutDurrell 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, andseeing issues raised such as professed unhappiness, boredom, violence infiction and real life, and self-loathing - I couldn't help but recallnumerous references over the years to Durrell's use of alcohol. I oftenhesitate to read biographical material about artists whose work I greatlyadmire, but having delved a little into Durrell's life, I couldn't helpwondering what effect Durrell's alleged steady drinking might have had onhis life and work. I understand he was a ferociously intelligent man withboundless energy, who led a fascinatingly exotic life. I saw one comment bysomeone who knew him (I don't recall who) that relayed that when writingDurrell lived on the 'edge of madness'. I couldn't help but wonder aboutthe psycholgocal aspects.For many reasons, I proffer this issue very tentatively, but my interestand curiosity have gotten the better of me. 'Alcohol and the writer' isalmost a cliche, but I don't find anything of Durrell's cliched. He was anoriginal.- Rick SchoffOn Mon, Nov 23, 2015 at 3:09 PM, James Gifford wrote:> Hello all,>> These are helpful comments, Gulshan. One small correction -- the> "Forgetting A Homeless Colonial" is my own piece in /jouvert/, which is> online:>> http://english.chass.ncsu.edu/jouvert/v6i1-2/giffor.htm>> I'm glad to hear it was of use! For anyone who doesn't know, the /Pied> Piper of Lovers/ and /Panic Spring/ editions are in stock for the various> European Amazon sites via their lightning service. I don't think that> applies to India, but they're still very much in print.>> I'm also glad for your comments on Elizabeth Gilbert. What you call> touching innocence is really a material legacy of colonialism. We have> this in Canada as well, and it's at least good for tourism revenues, but it> incurs costs too... I tend to see Durrell as very clear eyed on that point> in its various complexities.>> All best,> James> _______________________________________________> ILDS mailing list> ILDS at lists.uvic.ca> https://lists.uvic.ca/mailman/listinfo/ilds>-------------- next part --------------An HTML attachment was scrubbed...URL: ------------------------------Message: 2Date: Wed, 25 Nov 2015 07:48:57 -0800From: James Gifford To: ilds at lists.uvic.caSubject: [ilds] AlcoholismMessage-ID: <5655D869.5040800 at gmail.com>Content-Type: text/plain; charset=windows-1252; format=flowedWelcome 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,JamesOn 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------------------------------Message: 3Date: Wed, 25 Nov 2015 09:18:34 -0800From: Bruce Redwine To: James Gifford ,	James Gifford	Cc: Bruce Redwine Subject: Re: [ilds] AlcoholismMessage-ID: <8DA02DE7-300C-4C9C-8468-909E42C276A1 at earthlink.net>Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"In his latter years, alcoholism became a big problem for Durrell. Read his memoir A Smile in the Mind?s Eye (1980) and you?ll see his own account of much alcohol he was consuming on a daily basis. I seem to recall it was in excess of 2 1/2 bottles of wine a day. Living "on the edge of madness? is Sappho Jane Durrell?s expression. She also calls her father a ?demonic and aggressive drunkard? (Granta 37 [1991]) and says he used his liver ?like a punching bag.? I don?t recall alcohol becoming a fixture of Durrell?s writings until Bitter Lemons (1957), where I first learned the British term toper. A critic at the time pointed out its prominent use. Durrell and alcohol make me think of Lytton Strachey?s End of General Gordon (1918). The general had two obsessions: the Old Testament and the whiskey bottle. He would periodically go off on his binges. Strachey comments that ?the true drunkenness lay elsewhere.? ?Elsewhere? was not a matter of religiosity, rather some un! defined personal ?demon.? Same with Durrell, in my opinion.Bruce> On Nov 25, 2015, at 7:48 AM, James Gifford  wrote:> > 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-------------- next part --------------An HTML attachment was scrubbed...URL: ------------------------------Subject: Digest Footer_______________________________________________ILDS mailing listILDS at lists.uvic.cahttps://lists.uvic.ca/mailman/listinfo/ilds------------------------------End of ILDS Digest, Vol 103, Issue 18*************************************
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