On the shelves I’ve at least two books of Guy Davenport’s critical essays, just never got around to them. This Paris Review interview encourages me, with greater urgency, to read him. I’d filed Davenport away as a traditionalist, so was amused to read the interviewer’s description:
That surprises me, because on some level you are a deconstructionist. That is, in the sense that Borges was one—a writer who enacts aspects of the theory, as opposed to one who elaborates it. What you’ve done with interwoven texts, quotation—text as character, one could almost say—is revolutionary.
Davenport’s high praise of Eudora Welty also urges me to sample her work (I’ve got an unread Delta Wedding) at some point. He considers Welty the true heir of Joyce.
I doubt that there are more than two people who can read the first page of Ulysses; that is, give an account as to what’s going on, who’s doing what, yet it’s a beautiful, magical page with as much on it as Rimbaud could pack into a poem. No illustrator could paint it, nor a film depict it. It is a new way of writing, approached afterwards only by Eudora Welty. For all Pound’s saying that Joyce’s technique was une affaire de cuisine, it’s ultimately the technique that’s making it all beautiful. Getting the red in the right place.
Of course, all the Paris Review interviews are worthwhile, even if you think that you have little interest in the artist, but Guy Davenport’s is superb.