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A sentence about a sentence I love

The bloody boy’s filled the bloody bath with bloody snakes, again!

I first encountered My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell when it was a set text at school (I think we were supposed to admire the wonderfully evocative descriptions of nature and of Corfu, but my teacher, an ex-monk named Ted Fraser, was pretty subversive, so maybe not) and I’ve re-read it regularly ever since; I could make a serious claim that it is the funniest book in English and it never fails to make me laugh out loud, especially this scene when a naked Lawrence Durrell (also one of my favourite writers) bursts out of the bathroom to astound the assembling party guests; of course we know how much Gerry embroidered his memories so we don’t know if Larry actually said this, but the rhythm, the three points, the perfection of this exclamation just illustrates how fine and natural a writer one or other of the brothers was.

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7 thoughts on “A sentence about a sentence I love

  1. The more I think about it, the more I think that sentence (which is, I agree, quite brilliant) works as well as it does because of that ‘again’, which leads us into a wealth of unspoken back story. Without it, the sentence would be quite amusing, but with it …

  2. I didn’t know Lawrence had a brother who was an accomplished writer as well. It makes me want to write a post about families of writers, e.g., the Jameses, the Brontës, the Theroux brothers, the Grimms. Who am I missing?

    1. John, I go along with what Maureen says. If you’ve not encountered Gerald Durrell before, you’ve got a treat ahead of you. His quasi-autobiographical books about his childhood on Corfu are incredibly funny.

      I actually discovered Lawrence Durrell as a result of reading My Family and Other Animals, Larry was just too attractive as a character for me not to check out what he wrote. Interestingly, both brothers have a very similar sense of colour, a similar ability to write rich scenic description, though in many other respects they seem so different.

      As for writing families, I suppose we should include the name Amis?

  3. John, Gerald Durrell was probably better known to many people as an animal collector, a conservationist and the founder of Jersey Zoo, but he wrote around 30 books, fiction and non-fiction, for adults and for children. Apart from the so-called Corfu trilogy, my favourite is The Whispering Land, an account of a collecting trip to Patagonia. I have wanted to go to Patagonia ever since!

    He said of his own work in comparison to Lawrence’s, ‘The subtle difference between us is that he loves writing and I don’t. To me it’s simply a way to make money which enables me to do my animal work, nothing more.’ but I still think he undersold himself.

    Other members of the Durrell family have also written books. Durrell’s first wife, Jacqui, wrote a couple of non-fiction accounts of animal-collecting with Gerry, while his sister, Margaret, Margo in My Family, wrote the most infuriating non-account of her life, dealing with her version of life with Gerry, and entirely failing to touch on any of the other utterly fascinating things she did with herself. Durrell’s second wife, Lee, an ecologist, also has a number of books published.

    The one book I doubt we will ever see is the account of Leslie’s life, which was, not surprisingly, somewhat adventurous, and not always in a good way. I was once told by someone who was there that he had left at least one African country ever-so-slightly ahead of the authorities, and that gun-running was the issue. Not sure how true this was, but somehow it doesn’t surprise me.

    Other writing families … the Aikens (Conrad, Joan, Jane) spring to mind. Margery Allingham was part of a writing family (both parents wrote, and her brother’s account of life on the fairgrounds, Cheapjack, has just been republished).

  4. Another prolific literary family: the Bensons

    Edward Frederic Benson (the Lucia books, and some of the best ghost stories, after those written by M.R. James)

    Arthur Christopher Benson (now best remembered for the words for Land of Hope and Glory)

    Robert Hugh Benson.

    Their father, Edward White Benson, was eventually Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a friend of Henry James, and reputedly gave him the idea for ‘The Turn of the Screw’.

  5. Hi! I came accross your blog as I was searching for photos of Gerald Durrell. I remember the sentence you quoted very well as I have read most of Durrell’s book countless times. I can’t agree more – he is arguably one of the funniest writers, and not only in English! Recently, I came accross one of his books I hadn’t yet read and wrote a short blog post about it here: http://intuitionista.com/gerry-durrell-on-my-mind/

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