[ilds] Nunquam

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Thu Jun 16 10:15:52 PDT 2016


Ken, thanks for your reactions and précis of Nunquam.  I shall undoubtedly find these useful, once I get to reading the novel. Your introductory comment—“Finally finished re-reading Revolt”—indicates why these two novels have had limited success.  Namely, they’re hard to read.  Are we the only two still in this discussion?

Bruce





> On Jun 13, 2016, at 11:01 PM, Kennedy Gammage <gammage.kennedy at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> Finally finished re-reading the Revolt, and yes it really is a ‘science friction’ according to Felix, bringing Io back to life with Marchant’s miniaturized version of Abel (the language-based AI we met on the first page of Tunc) powering her new 1960s-era cyborg brain, while her world famous flesh is recreated in “rubber, leather, nylon, steel…glass, wool, jute and so on…gutta-percha, plastic…resins” by the best scientists of the Firm. What do you bet Durrell experienced audio-animatronic Mr. Lincoln when Miller took him to Disneyland in 1968!
> 
> Here’s all they had to do to bring the dummy to life according to Marchant: “mocked out a musculature and a nervous system and allowed her to imitate human behavior, speech, gesture, mnemonic response,” since Felix’s formerly bulky Abel has been “reduced spectroscopically to the size of a pea.” Yet, even though Marchant implies that Julian has sexually assaulted Io’s waxworks after hours at Madame Tussaud’s (!) Durrell will keep up the fiction that the Firm is in parallel developing a male cyborg consort for her known as Adam, based on Rackstraw. We can all see where this is really headed. 
> 
> “Muscles powered by tiny photoelectric mnemonic cells.” Felix and Marchant do make it sound easy: “It might seem complicated, but in fact it’s only terribly detailed and intricate.” It’s Durrell’s strange science-frictional mashup of Mary Shelley and Norbert Wiener.
> 
> Does the poem “Aphrodite” have anything to do with the _Revolt_? Just curious. Sadly, that poem is not included in any of my three Durrell collections…
> 
> Mentioned in the first line of section three: Hitler! So by my count that’s only the second reference to WWII in the Revolt so far. What do you make of that? Durrell was immersed in the swingin’ 60s looking forward not back. The only ‘back’ for these characters are memories of their own past interactions, seasoned with shadowy histories of the Firm. That said – precisely zero reference to the contemporaneous Colonels’ coup. No outside wars in Tunc & Nunquam to distract from the chilly interiors.
> 
> And then a third WWII reference: Toybrook, the skunkworks where they are building the dummy, looks like the Bergen-Belsen death camp. Felix and Marchant laugh heartily, though Durrell must have intended irony. 
> 
> I believe Julian is the first character to explicitly mention Aphrodite – in relation to Io. Though Felix describes his sleeping wife Benedicta’s breast as “the rise and fall so reassuring, like the spring swell of a marvelous free sea – a Greek sea.”  They are one of the triangles.
> 
> OK – here’s Caradoc’s (I mean Durrell’s) opinion of brutalist architecture: “And now that the mob has too much pocket money we can expect nothing so much as a long age of bloodshed expressed by the concrete block. It is hard nowadays to distinguish a barracks from a prison or a block of dwellings…they belong to the same strain of thought – Mobego I call it after our old friend Sipple.” Very fair architectural criticism, but suspect economics: blaming the mob and its ego (thanks for clarifying that for me Bruce) for decisions the working class never made. If this so-called UK mob had ‘too much pocket money’ in 1968 it was probably due to the long privations from WWII finally easing! (Is this reference #4? Call it three-and-a-half.) But why ever ‘blame’ the mob for the sins of the ruling class? They certainly haven’t had too much pocket money for decades now, if ever by definition.
> 
> 
> I think there was some discussion of Hippo’s house, Naos, in relation to Egyptian shrines. It would be fun to reference some of these earlier threads from time to time on the listserv, both to avoid reinventing the wheel - but mainly to re-enjoy what Bill Godshalk had to say about it!
> 
> “I thought vividly of the boy with his throat cut lying on his side in Sipple’s bed…I thought of Iolanthe who had committed the murder. It was unbelievable really. Unbelievable.” Yes, for the reader it really is totally unbelievable and unsupported, though it amply served its characteristically vivid & salacious purpose in the storyline.
> 
> Did Julian mastermind this shocking incident with Adam and Rackstraw? Of course!
> 
> I guess my central question was what Durrell wanted or expected us to believe about creating a true-to-life cyborg (not only that, but an exact replica of a world famous person who was also the main characters’ personal friend and lover!) – in 1968. I think we all understand what a challenge this would pose in 2016 – but maybe the immediate readers of the day thought anything was possible. Or – and I think this is more likely – maybe Durrell thought of it as a modern fairy tale. Something more akin to ‘the uncanny’ than to ‘sci-fric,’ more Pygmalion than _The Stepford Wives._
> 
> Of course, some of his ideas are profoundly politically incorrect: like Baum talking religious leaders into endorsing the Firm’s paid recruitment program for onanistic skin care product donors. That might have earned Durrell a Fatwa if anyone had been paying attention back in the day.
> 
> That’s all I’ve got cheers – now I can finally read some of the Stanislaw Lem books I picked up at Powell’s in Portland. 
> 
> - Ken
> 
> P.S. How about doing one of these Virtual Book Club (VBC) sessions about _Prospero’s Cell_ when the time comes? I can pretty much guarantee it will be a lively discussion.
> 
> 

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