Bayley is England’s Edmund Wilson, and reading him on reading others truly is an education.


ESSAYS, 1962-2002

A generous display of the indefatigable British critic’s wares: nearly 70 informed, eloquent, and endlessly stimulating book reviews and literary essays.

They’re grouped mostly by genre and nationality—and there are few fields of interest about which this ineffably generous uncommon reader doesn’t have something interesting to say. Rummaging through “English Literature,” he celebrates the productively “divided natures” of Dickens and Hardy, Trollope’s mastery of the quotidian, and the achievements of those “self-created” geniuses George Orwell and T.E. Lawrence. Perusing “The English Poets,” he notes Keats’s appropriation of “the Shakespearean spirit,” and gives overdue homage to Tennyson in a penetrating assessment keenly sensitive to the poet’s ingenuous impetuosity and very real greatness. “Mother Russia” gathers knowledgeable appreciations of Pushkin’s profound influence on the 19th-century novel, the unjustly neglected Ivan Bunin (whose “descriptive prose is alive in the same absolute sense as that of D.H. Lawrence”), and those indigenous, ultimately un-translatable great poets Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva. Bayley seems less astute on “American Poetry,” though he responds strongly to Whitman’s infectious ebullience, and memorably pinpoints the elusive John Ashbery’s poetic method as “romantic alchemy.” Few could match his comprehension of 20th-century writing “Out of Eastern Europe”—or have developed the rich variations he works on the observation that “so many European poets, who . . . [endured] the Second World War, have written in consequence a poetry of extreme simplicity and precision”—in revelatory analyses of Paul Celan, Zbigniew Herbert, and Czeslaw Milosz. Further brief pieces praise Stendhal’s salutary egoism, Angela Carter’s inventive feminism, the intellectual symbiosis shared by Henry and William James, and intellectual combat that kept Leo and Sophia Tolstoy together (and apart), and, in a fine ending essay, Gore Vidal’s brilliant memoir Palimpsest.

Bayley is England’s Edmund Wilson, and reading him on reading others truly is an education.

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-393-05840-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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



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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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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