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Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk

This item is taken from PN Review 173, Volume 33 Number 3, January - February 2007.

Letter from John Lyon
Hill Climbing

Sir:

Paul McLoughlin's generous, considered, and multifaceted disagreement with my review of Geoffrey Hill's Without Title is an example of the kind of debate which such a review and - much more importantly - Hill's work itself may prompt. I shall confine myself to four points:

1. Of course many writers use the word 'appetite' but the particular uses of Shakespeare and Hart Crane - the former's 'taste with a distempered appetite' quoted at the beginning of the review; the latter's 'Thou canst read nothing except through appetite' quoted by Hill in Without Title, p. 70 - seem the most apposite here.

2. Mr McLoughlin is right to suggest that Hill raises questions of taste, good and bad. For example, I have argued elsewhere that Hill's jokes are consistently and deliberately bad, awful even.

3. My final sentence did not intend to suggest that anyone who failed to respond admiringly to, or to understand, Hill was tone-deaf or inattentive. I apologise that my sense was not clear. The final sentence sought to return readers to the beginning of the review and to the suggestion that newspaper reviewers of Without Title, complacently and seemingly admiringly, turned Hill into a simple poet of the English landscape. Hill is not amenable to such transformation. By contrast, readers who are baffled or infuriated by Hill seem to me to have got something of the point. Moreover, I have never claimed to comprehend any of Hill's works in any full or adequate sense and, while perturbed by much, am undisturbed by Tom Paulin's 'stupefied awe'.

4. For me, democracy is not merely the most difficult political mode but the sole acceptable one. The excessive valorising of consensus, the ignoring of the difficult, and the pejorative connotations accruing to such notions as argument and disagreement all currently threaten democracy. Hence I am grateful for Mr McLoughlin's disagreement.

JOHN LYON
by email





This item is taken from PN Review 173, Volume 33 Number 3, January - February 2007.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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