Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love by James Booth

To write [the necessary qualities are]: massive self-approval, a thick skin and the conviction of the importance of 'some urgent conception of the universe and the state o fman', which, though inevitably 'arrant toash', is necessary to give the writer the stubborn impetus to continue. (summary and quotes from 'Round the Point,' unpublished Larkin dialectical playlet)

I enjoyed this book but that is probably because I love all things Larkin.  Booth's analysis of the poems are long-winded and sometimes unnecessary, and he is much too fond of the adjective "less-deceived," also the title of one of Larkin's pivotal books.

I liked learning that the original draft ending to "High Windows" instead of reading "and is endless" read "and fucking piss."

Larkin and Monica Jones defaced a first-edition copy of Iris Murdoch's 1956 novel, The Flight from the Enchanter, and Booth criticize's their many hours of "sterile boredom" that must have led them to do this, 1300 alterations in all.  Well, I think it's funny.

Next, Please

Always too eager for the future, we
Pick up bad habits of expectancy.
Something is always approaching; every day
Till then we say,

Watching from a bluff the tiny, clear
Sparkling armada of promises draw near.
How slow they are! And how much time they waste,
Refusing to make haste!

Yet still they leave us holding wretched stalks
Of disappointment, for, though nothing balks
Each big approach, leaning with brasswork prinked,
Each rope distinct,

Flagged, and the figurehead wit golden tits
Arching our way, it never anchors; it's
No sooner present than it turns to past.
Right to the last

We think each one will heave to and unload
All good into our lives, all we are owed
For waiting so devoutly and so long.
But we are wrong:

Only one ship is seeking us, a black-
Sailed unfamiliar, towing at her back
A huge and birdless silence. In her wake

No waters breed or break.

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