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Evie
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Joined: 24 Oct 2008
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Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 8:17 pm    Post subject: Lawrence Durrell  Reply with quote

As well as the bicentenary of one particular novelist's birth, this year is the centenary of the birth of Lawrence Durrell.  His Alexandria Quartet is one of my top three novels of all time, and possibly the book I would take to a desert island, were I ever on DID.  

I will probably re-read the Avignon Quintet this year, though, in his honour, as I also loved that but have only read it once.

He is not to everyone's taste, but I love his writing.  I also love Gerald Durrell's line in My Family and Other Animals that Larry had gone off to write some more of his 'deathless prose'.  The Durrells remind me of the Attenborough brothers in a way - one a naturalist with popular appeal, one more involved in the highbrow arts (ie more of a luvvie!), both very talented but very different personalities.  (And of course there is a lot more to David Attenborough than his love of nature.)

Anyway - not expecting hordes of Big Readers to join me, but I will be paying homage this year to Lawrence Durrell.


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MikeAlx



Joined: 17 Nov 2008
Posts: 2105


Location: Seaford, East Sussex

PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 9:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Evie, I read a review in the Sunday Times last week of a book about Larry's first wife, Nancy Myers, whom he seems to have treated appallingly. The book is by her daughter from her second marriage, Joanna Hodgkin (aka novelist Joanna Hines). The Sunday Times reviewer had a rather low opinion of the Alexandria Quartet: "...those torrid, pretentious novels...".

Apparently Larry and Nancy were living together in Corfu in the period described in "My Family and Other Animals", but Gerald seems to have rewritten history and airbrushed her out, putting Larry instead in the family home.

I don't think you can access the Sunday Times for free online, but here is the Grauniad's review:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2...mateurs-eden-nancy-durrell-review



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Evie
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Joined: 24 Oct 2008
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Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 10:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He did write the most wonderful book about his and Nancy's time on Corfu - Prospero's Cell, I think the title is - wonderful stuff.  But I have read on countless occasions how badly he treated her, and I think his relationships with women generally were not great for the woman...

But surely My Family... is set before Larry was married?  Very long time since I read it, and I remember the fabulous TV series much better (the Hannah Gordon one, not the more recent one), so maybe that's coloured my impression.  They were all children/teenagers in that.

Certainly some find him pretentious, which is what I was referring to when I said that he wasn't to everyone's taste.  I don't care...The Alexandria Quartet was a revelation to me, and continues to puzzle and delight in equal measure - not sure I'll ever quite get to the bottom of it.  I wish more contemporary writers were what others dismiss as 'pretentious' - ie using language in a deliberate and sophisticated way.


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Evie
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 10:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another excellent read is the volume of his correspondence with Henry Miller, with whom he was friends - another much underrated writer.


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Evie
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 10:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for that link, Mike - have just read the article, and it's made me want to read the book.  And Henry and Anais Nin get a decent mention too.  

I don't worry about whether writers (or any other kind of artists) are nice people, though - doesn't affect the quality of their writing.  Bob Dylan, my greatest hero of all, treated his first wife very badly, I think, but it does not diminish my love for him one bit!


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MikeAlx



Joined: 17 Nov 2008
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Location: Seaford, East Sussex

PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2012 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nearly all my favourite writers were pretty horrible people! I think (unfortunately) it usually requires a great deal of selfishness to be a great artist of any kind. But when you read that Larry forbade Nancy from speaking to any man taller than 5'4" (his own height) it does rather diminish him (no pun intended!).

And I agree, I like the writing in the AQ, though I completely understand it's too overwrought for some palettes. I would rather have ambition and linguistic exuberance, even if it doesn't always work, than something safe and "tasteful".



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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2012 9:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MikeAlx wrote:
Nearly all my favourite writers were pretty horrible people! I think (unfortunately) it usually requires a great deal of selfishness to be a great artist of any kind.


"The writer's only responsibility is to his art.  He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one.  He has a dream.  It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it.  He has no peace until then.  Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written.  If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' is worth any number of old ladies."

- William Faulkner



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chris-l



Joined: 27 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2012 10:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm up for a re-read of 'The Avignon Quintet'. Evie. I was considering it anyway, as we plan to spend a couple of weeks in June down in the Vaucluse, just north of Avignon.  I would like to finish 'Moby Dick' before I embark upon another 'big read', but that is going on much more quickly than I had anticipated (i.e. I am finding it a much more enjoyable read than I had supposed it to be), so I should be ready to start on Durrell within the next few weeks.


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Evie
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2012 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ooh, that's great, Chris - will be fab to have someone to talk to about it.  I have just started a Zola novel, and also want to finish that first, but am completely captivated by it, so I doubt it will take too long!

As for artistic personalities - I saw a wonderful documentary about Barbara Hepworth once.  She has famously been vilified for putting her children into care so that she could carry on with her sculpting - but fewer people are as judgemental towards Ben Nicholson, her husband, who ignored his family for the sake of his art.  I'm not justifying what she did, but she did it in desperation, I think, because she felt it was unfair that Ben could carry on his career but she couldn't.

As you say, Himadri, or rather, as Faulkner says, selfishness is probably a prerequisite for great art.


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chris-l



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2012 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Evie, and anyone else who may be thinking of joining in, I have just started 'Monsieur', the first volume of 'The Avignon Quintet' I'm only 17 pages in, so not too far advanced yet, but I'm revelling in it so far.

At the begininning, Bruce, the narrator of this volume has just arrived in Avignon on the Blue Train (a train journey is surely the best way for any novel to begin!) having been summoned from Prague, where he is the doctor attached to the British Embassy, as a result of the suicide of his brother-in-law Piers. In the first few pages, we are also introduced obliquely to Sylvie, Piers' sister and Bruce's wife, who is confined to an asylum in the Vaucluse. We also learn something about Sutcliffe, a writer already dead, and his widow Pia, Bruce's sister. The relationships, as you can see, are complex, but they become more so as the stories develop, which is why it seems worthwhile to offer a word or two of clarification at this point. For the sake of my own sanity, I am trying to keep track of as many characters as I am able!

I'll post again when I have read a little more, or when anyone else feels ready to join in, whichever feels the better alternative.



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