INTERPLAY: A Kind of Commonplace Book by D.J. Enright

INTERPLAY: A Kind of Commonplace Book

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Enright's engaging commonplace book takes multiple advantage of his work as a poet, traveling professor, book reviewer, and, not least, anthologist. Of an apparently polymathic author, Swift wrote, ""what though his head be empty, provided his commonplace book be full""--which Enright notes with characteristic irony in his own eclectic one. With his scholarly career spanning Singapore, Japan, Thailand, and Egypt, and a journalistic background to balance his poetic output, Enright makes a heterogeneous assembly seem intimate and personal. There are reflections on the themes and figures of his poetry, including Faust, Adam and Eve, and his working-class Warwickshire childhood, as well as a scattering of new poems. There are also miniature travelogues from his professorships that are both searching and diverting, whether on instruction in Thai, madness in Egypt, or the actually scrutable Japanese. Professionally, his experiences on both sides of publishing--the inner workings of editors and the makeshift criticisms of book reviewers--complement his extracts from George Gissing on Grub Street, Milton on freedom of the press, and Dr. Johnson and Coleridge on writing as a career. Likewise his time as a teacher of English literature informs both his criticisms of self-involved, self-destructive theorizing and his views of literature's uses amid modern media and in other cultures. Although his self-effacing irony holds its ground in these matters, his opinions closer to home are a little parochial, be it on the soap opera Coronation Street, Princess Di, the Times Literary Supplement, or Salman Rushdie. Enright recovers himself as he winds his book up on the subjects of age and mortality, notably on fictional children's deaths and Anthony Burgess's passing. If some personal observations court banality and the philosophy is not the deepest, Enright's well-arrayed selections form a pleasurable trove of musings and browsings.

Pub Date: Dec. 14th, 1995
Page count: 237pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.