Hit and miss, but worth it for the appraisal of Arabia Deserta and the hilarious response to D. H. Lawrence's introduction to Maurice Magnus's MemoirsHit and miss, but worth it for the appraisal of Arabia Deserta and the hilarious response to D. H. Lawrence's introduction to Maurice Magnus's Memoirs of the Foreign Legion (which ought to be read first) alone. Lawrence's response to Douglas's unflattering portrait of him is included in the miscellaneous papers of Phoenix II. ...more
Superb. The kind of people who read old books looking for ways to be "offended" by the antiquated, un-politically correct attitudes of those books' auSuperb. The kind of people who read old books looking for ways to be "offended" by the antiquated, un-politically correct attitudes of those books' authors best stick to the current We Are the World sort of timid, flavorless, conformist literature cluttering the groaning shelves of modern book stores, in which they can be consoled ad nauseum by opinions they can "relate" to. If one is, on the other hand, in search of glorious English prose - note how Douglas devotes several chapters to Gafsa, a town he obviously doesn't like much, that lacks much of touristic interest, in which he experiences no tremendous event, and makes it interesting through the sheer enchantment of his writing! - and a vigorous expression of unfashionable opinions sans bush-beating or tiptoeing, though they may be opinions one disagrees with, and so what if they are? why whine about it? - then all of Douglas's early travel books and novels are well worth one's while. It should also be noted that though the author makes comments on the baleful effects of Islam in Tunisia, one need only turn to his Italian travel books to find opinions on the same lines of Christianity. Though these, doubtless, would be passed over without comment by those who find much to oppress their delicate sensibilities here in Fountains in the Sand.
I thought of the sunset this afternoon, as viewed from Sidi Mansur. They are fine, these moments of conflagration, of mineral incandescence, when the sober limestone rocks take on the tints of molten copper, their convulsed strata standing out like the ribs of some agonized Prometheus, while the plain, where every little stone casts an inordinate shadow behind it, clothes itself in demure shades of pearl. Fine, and all too brief. For even before the descending sun has touched the rim of the world the colours fade away; only overhead the play of blues and greens continues—freezing, at last, to pale indigo. Fine, but somewhat trite; a well-worn subject, these Oriental sunsets. Yet the man who can revel in such displays with a whole heart is to be envied of a talisman against many ills. I can conceive the subtlest and profoundest sage desiring nothing better than to retain, ever undiminished, a childlike capacity for these simple pleasures.
If stuff like that glances off your skull, there's no help for you....more
One sees where Nabokov got his penchant for wryly comical indexes. For example:
Breakfast in Italy, dislocates moral stability, 18, 125; responsible foOne sees where Nabokov got his penchant for wryly comical indexes. For example:
Breakfast in Italy, dislocates moral stability, 18, 125; responsible for homicides, 127.
Charity, a form of self-indulgence, 311.
Devil, his perennial popularity, 25; his honesty, 266.
Emigrants to America, their wine-bibbing propensities and intelligence, 21-22.
Norman Douglas, a now forgotten author, was in his day famous for his novel South Wind and his travel books. This one, from 1915, follows the author's journey through the barren southern regions of Italy. It's fastidiously written, peppered with arcane facts from obscure literary sources, and charged through with the sort of droll wit that's impossible for most people nowadays to appreciate. I liked it very much, but think that for most readers it would be sheer agony. ...more