Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Charisma of the lawbreaker

Inevitably this page has betrayed a weakness, repeatedly, for the outlaw in every field it has mangled - Eliot, most extensively I suppose. But Eliot's example really enhances what we mean, which is the guy who was bred and trained and privileged to see, and then went out and did so. That theme is everywhere here because my admiration of such people, while only marginally excusable, is completely inexhaustible. It only seems convenient to cite Eliot. In reality it takes a lot of work, because he isn't easy and he never did bother to be. It isn't difficulty that makes him good, it's his gift of difficulty that does. He is sharing the struggle. This generosity goes back to François Villon, and was fundamental in Rimbaud, Gide, Genet, and Tennessee Williams.

Now I'm in the middle of reading a book by a writer I've cited, before, which I acquired when I was 27 years old, three years beyond his when he wrote it. I've kept it around as a contingency, a sidebar to an oeuvre which was much more famous for being something else; and now, I find that it's a miracle. 

Why are we awed to see such things taking place so well, in a site of secular candour, as to move the earth before our eyes toward becoming a larger place? Is it just that the ecology of superstition and xenophobia requires a symbiotic pest, or is that we are given that elated feeling of being let out into the tonic of daylight, too, that we owe to its discovery -

                 .. to ride time as gayly as a cork.

Lawrence Durrell
The Black Book
Olympia Press, 1938©
Gerald Sykes, introduction
E.P. Dutton, 1960©


  1. I like your "he isn't easy and he never did bother to be." And - I remember coming back to Durrell after a lapse of time and having that ping sensation. It was 'only' the Alexandria Quartet and I was 25.

  2. What a rich reminiscence! I completely did not deserve the AQ at 25, but it would have been a great advantage to have understood it then. Even now, it is a great advantage. (I am not surprised, now, at your expertise in picnics!) Thank you for contributing this image.