“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Pleb Writes

The world’s dumbing-down continues apace, and we can but weep. The latest example is Deborah Lawrenson’s novel SONGS OF BLUE AND GOLD, a fictionalised version of Lawrence Durrell’s complex love-life during his time on the island of Corfu, which is being marketed without any reference at all to Lawrence Durrell on the basis that the plebs won’t have heard of him. Blummin’ plebs, eh?
  Happily, Ms Lawrenson herself is more than happy to wax lyrical about the inspiration for SONGS OF BLUE AND GOLD over at her interweb malarkey, with the gist running thusly:
“Inspired by the writer, poet and traveller Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990), this is a novel about love and memory, identity and biography.
  “It sparked into life one gloomy winter afternoon when I rediscovered PROSPERO’S CELL on the bookshelves of a bedroom at the top of the house. Opening it and starting to read was like injecting the grey with vivid blues and emeralds. A richly evocative account of Durrell’s life in Corfu in the 1930s, it was first published in 1945 and purports to be a diary in which he is a serious young writer living blissfully in the sun, deeply in love both with his new wife and with the idea of Greece.
  “Durrell states that PROSPERO’S CELL is a “guide to the landscape and manners” of Corfu but it never quite becomes this. It is a lyrical personal notebook, and what he leaves out is as poignant as what he includes.
  “Its content is almost unrecognisable as the same ground his younger brother, the zoologist Gerald, covers in his famous Corfu book MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS, in which ‘Larry’ lives with the family (which he never did) and is the ‘diminutive blond firework’ by turns pompously literary and hilarious.
  “And by the time he wrote PROSPERO’S CELL, Lawrence and his first wife Nancy had separated. He was already sadder and wiser, and living in wartime Egypt with Eve Cohen who would become his second wife.
  “I was intrigued. Further researches and a reading of several biographies soon revealed a complex and contradictory character - and a further two wives. His work, over a period of nearly sixty years - most famously in The Alexandria Quartet - was concerned with duality: love and hate; truth and fiction; memory and misinterpretation. And running through it all, the transfiguring effect of time …
  “Durrell aficionados might be disconcerted by the way I’ve played fast and loose with his chronology, compressing and altering his travels and his wives’ biographies to give an impression of the author’s life without providing in any way an accurate portrayal. In this, the book has more in common with his fictional characters, his use of dualism and reinterpretation, than with real people. “All these writers [in my books] are variations of myself,” he said a few years before he died. So, on one level, Julian Adie is another fictionalised version of Lawrence Durrell: what he might have become if certain events had taken place …”
  Incidentally, Deborah tells us that the Folio Society is publishing a new edition of Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet this month, the introduction to which can be found here

1 comment:

Book Bird Dog said...

Does this mean that the words "based on the life of writer...." will automatically turn off the general public to a book? I think the selling point for the book is the island of Corfu.