PHILIP LARKIN

A WRITER'S LIFE

One of three literary executors of British poet Philip Larkin (1922-85), fellow poet Motion (The Lamberts, 1987) ill serves his subject with this drab, exhaustive biography full of bland literary criticism and inappropriate psychologizing. With complete access to Larkin's unpublished archival material—from which he quotes liberally—Motion establishes that Larkin's father was a Nazi sympathizer, as well as a misogynist and an autocratic parent, and that the poet's ``whining'' mother exerted an equally debilitating influence on her sensitive son. Tall and gawky, young Philip stammered and made few friends: This overwhelming sense of isolation stayed with him even through his years of critical acclaim. A voracious reader, he idolized Auden, Lawrence, and Yeats, despite his later antimodernist stance. At Oxford, Larkin formed his legendary friendship with Kingsley Amis, whose fame he would continually envy even as they shared a love of jazz and drinking, as well as a hatred of pretension. Larkin experienced difficulty with girls, not losing his virginity until well into his first job as a librarian (``handing out tripey novels to morons''). While developing his career—he created a major library at Hull—he also gained stature as a writer. Hoping to equal the achievements of Amis and their friend, Bruce Montgomery, he devoted his early efforts to fiction, producing two novels, Jill and A Girl in Winter, which was a modest success. But Larkin's real greatness was as a poet. Some juvenilia inspired largely by Yeats was eclipsed by his mature work—poetry in the plain-speaking tradition of Hardy, Housman, and Edward Thomas. The obsessions of his verse—sadness, death, failure—flow directly from his troubled life (fearing marriage and family, he managed to maintain three long relationships with dramatically different types of women), though he himself always discouraged such readings. Sure to be the standard life for some time, this cadaverous book seems dead to Larkin's amazing sense of humor, one of the sources of his poetic achievement. (Photos)

Pub Date: July 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-374-23168-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1993

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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