Wednesday, November 28, 2012

If only he had signalled I might go with him to Crete

Scott Martin

          A basket of quail burst open in
          the bazaar. They did not try to
          escape but spread out slowly like
          spilt honey.

This is the second time, in comparatively few days, when we have watched Mr Durrell at play with a gerund he seems to have been attracted to, an image of the passive state as active, in his use of the time-extracting verb, to spread. It's almost clumsy, to be bringing this up, because his way with it struck me before, and here again, as exquisite. Who can wish to be the one to admire a gesture so natural that its citation is only the highest threat to pleasure?

I am not sure that it's even possible to say, spilt honey, without turning heads at the spectacle in anxious wonder. I do not care to tamper with the last Saturday commute, acknowledging how still the stain of vacancy extends. But, very well: supposing this simile to be a touchstone of his style, it certainly helps to explain to me why Durrell's imagery does not fade. If I have not done my part to share this wonder, possibly I can give warning in his well spilt words. He loved this act of language. 

And, Alexandrines.

i-ii  R. Holbrooke

Lawrence Durrell
Faber & Faber, Ltd, 2000©


  1. i do not tire of the quartet in all the years i have been going back to it
    and i envy your copy from london dear sir

  2. Thank you for announcing your return from holiday in such an amiable way, and compliments on the reading we find you doing at your page already. My enviable copy is indeed enviable: it's a cute little paperback they produce, while one awaits the shipment of sturdier stuff. But of course as you say, it's well to plan for an edition to support many visits.

  3. The sturdier stuff mentioned above, just arrived from Heywood Hill in London. This outstanding book shop extends such service to the simplest inquiry that one always feels as if one had ordered a dozen metres of hand-tooled leatherbound first editions in gardening, which is equally routine. I asked for the Qt in decent cloth editions, not necessarily firsts, and they put together 3 firsts and a third printing of the first of the other one, all in original dust jackets and in fine condition, for a price, including shipment via air mail, complying with my more modest requirement. This is the world in which we used to live, in all our merchant and service relationships. For as long as Heywood Hill offer support to readers, I encourage reliance on their respect for that relationship. The shop is referenced in the "Context" listing, right.

  4. Such is the England I know and love.
    Such are the gentleman who still reside there.
    Such are those that do not engage with fashion, technology, or modern woes.
    This is the England i knew and loved for 20 years of residence and I am happy it supplies your
    reading requirements with dignity, fine manners, brevity and clarity

    1. It's not an unlikely coincidence that this posting bears a remembrance of W Scott Martin, a dear friend and book seller in Sutter Street off Union Square. He comes to mind for his hellenism and his travels, but no one could say that Scott's attractiveness was partitionable by any sort of line. There were others, then, of whom William Stout in architecture on Montgomery Street and Mr Ferlinghetti's City Lights on Columbus remain, to afford an extravagantly material difference to the quality of life; and readers will know if their community is similarly served. HH are not sole suppliers here, but Scott (a close friend of HH, and classmate of my father) did introduce us, and so undoubtedly a continuity also is at work. But I have seen them extend outstanding service to friends who've simply popped in on a tip while in London. Thank you for your sympathetic reminiscence.