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NV-DS30 DS50

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21 In his Paris Review interview, Davenport was asked whether the supIntroduction xxxix pression of these novellas constituted an act of self-censorship. “It is,” he answered, but qualified the remark. “It is also a critical decision. The books are available, in tall stacks in remainder houses. I can always change my mind; better still, I can rewrite” (Sullivan 2002, 72). The qualification may appear disingenuous but, as my chapter on the utopian fiction contends, his reservations about “the three shapeless novellas I’ve chosen not to keep in print” (73) could be justified not simply as an expedient but on aesthetic grounds.

But I saved myself. What’s that shield to me? Let it go. 10 Davenport interposes, for clarity and effect, the skirmish Archilochus need only imply, and the base hillbilly status of the Thracian adversary. Davenport has a soldier in a pinch balance a “beautiful” weapon against “precious” life, but again the Greek is quicker and wholly unsentimental. The shield is simply an innocent reluctantly sacrificed to necessity (with a note of mockery in so describing a weapon). And Archilochus is more pungent, haughty in his repudiation of what was, after all, the spearman’s second most valuable armament.

Go back, the summer whispered, Go back. Athlete, olive, girl. It must be there. (Davenport 1966, 23) The lovers merge, and merge simultaneously with their deathless avatars out of myth and Mytilenian song. At a time when human beings have been individuated in terms of sexual preference, Davenport’s work retrieves from antiquity a nonessentialized attitude to sexuality and an acceptance of its diverse expressions. But it is not merely that antiquity affords an approved cultural precedent for a liberal conception of sexuality.

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