Notes on Dead Poets and Dead Poet Book Reviewers
To Michael Dirda, Washington Post Reviewer:How not to conclude when reading your book reviews that you are a paladin of the literary-established order. Is there no such thing as a bad book review in the Washington Post? Your review of James Booth’s Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love serves as yet another example of blind positivity. You seem unable to question the most basic of principles, including fame and what fame might imply in literature. You state: “Philip Larkin (1922-1985) is as famous a poet as any…” So, for me, that likely implies he played the game, kept his mouth shut, did not have the balls to question and challenge the literary establishment. So, why should one revere a “famed” poet therefore? You state in your hagiography of Larkin that he wrote “clear, accessible poetry that, once read, could never be forgotten,” and cite the following to support your odd contention: “Sexual intercourse began/ In nineteen sixty-three/ (which was rather late for me). . . . What will survive of us is love. . . . Age, and then the only end of age. . . . Never such innocence again.” Are there really others besides you, who will NEVER ever forget those seemingly banal lines? And who gives a damn about Larkin’s purported “geek-chic” look? Who cares about his sexual experiences and porn collections. Who gives a damn if he enjoyed “washing dishes and doing laundry”? What I care about is wisdom. And your article did not present an iota of wisdom. Why do you guys insist on inflating these dead, flaccid poets? Let them stay buried.