[ilds] ILDS Digest, Vol 104, Issue 14

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Thu Dec 17 14:40:53 PST 2015

My use of “phony” (Salinger’s spelling in Catcher) refers to both the character Graecen and to the author of Graecen, Lawrence Durrell, who often creates fictional surrogates reflecting his views and aspects of his own character.  Phony is not simply equated with lying (i.e., the deliberate telling of a falsehood with the intention of someone believing the same as truth).  Certainly, we all lie on occasion, and we all do things that are not admirable.  But there’s a big difference, I think, between lapses in behavior and gross deception (i.e., “living the lie”).  I see Durrell—and this is entirely my interpretation—as touching upon the latter in Labyrinth.  He’s concerned about what is and is not “fake,” and he’s also concerned about this on a personal level (i.e., to what extent “all great artists … were not absolutely revolting as human beings” [p. 258]).  Note, Graecen/Durrell does not say “all human beings”; he specifically refers to “artists,” of which Durrell obviously classifies himself, if Graecen doesn’t out of modesty, presumably.  So, Durrell’s question is self-directed.

I would not go so far as to say, “We are ALL phoney” or “We all live the lie.”  I don’t believe this is true, and I don’t believe in the notion of “multiple selves” or of some “It” controlling our lives and robbing us of personal responsibility.  The “double” is a big topic in modern literature, but I don’t take it seriously outside the world of fiction.  In the real world, we are held accountable for our actions and can’t blame them on another “self.”  (Try that in a court of law!)  I’m rather old fashioned with the idea of truth and straightforwardness.  This was an important topic in Germanic literature, particular Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse, where being what one seemed was highly prized.  I’m sorry that this value is now questioned.


> On Dec 17, 2015, at 12:54 PM, mail at durrelllibrarycorfu.org wrote:
> Bruce asks: "Simply put, is someone a phony or not a phony?" Does this question relate to a character in a book, or the person who wrote the book, or to some other person. (note the "other")?
> Whether we are writers, grocers or houswives, we ALL lie, we are ALL phoney (I prefer it with an 'e', sounds less like someone lying thru telecommunciations) we are ALL duplicitous, we ALL have adouble, we are ALL lived by the It. 
> Try this:
> He is the man who makes notes,
> The observer in the tall black hat
> Face hidden in the brim.
> In three European cities
> He has watched me watching him.
> [echoes of The Third Man? and Welles's gnomic face?]
> He watches me now, working late,
> Bringing a poem to life, his eyes
> Reflect the malady of De Nerval:
> O useless in this old house to question
> The mirrors, his impenetrable disguise.
> Add the title of that poem, and you have both Durrells in a nutshell. And yourself. and her.
> RP  

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