Begin the Begin: R.E.M.’S Early Years by Robert Dean Lurie:
Beyond the Harris stories and the surfeit of local inspiration, Stipe was also fixated on the novels and travel writings of British author Lawrence Durrell during this period. A protégé of Henry Miller (author of Tropic of Cancer and other acclaimed/controversial novels), Durrell was cut from the same cloth as many of Stipe’s other heroes; like Patti Smith, John Barth, Man Ray, Lou Reed, and Lillian Hellman, Durrell was a freethinker who challenged prevailing social norms in both his life and his work—particularly those related to religion and sexuality. But what Durrell also brought to the table—and what undoubtedly influenced Stipe—was his strong affinity for place (in Durrell’s case, the Mediterranean and Egypt), his impressive vocabulary, and his lyrical, somewhat ostentatious deployment of that vocabulary in the service of his muse. In an interview a few years later, after the bloom was apparently off the rose, Stipe seemed to rue his fixation with this author. “Oh my God,” he said. “He’s so sappy and thick, I’m embarrassed. Lawrence Durrell. Before I traveled to Greece. His prose was so thick and tactile, no country could live up to that.” But during 1985 Stipe cited Durrell frequently. In an August 1985 television interview in Toronto, Stipe claimed that he had read “everything” by the author. The fact that he made a routine of publicly name-checking Durrell, much as he had done with Patti Smith a couple of years earlier, may be seen as some indication of the depth of Durrell’s influence on the songwriter.