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This review is taken from PN Review 74, Volume 16 Number 6, July - August 1990.

TITCH THOMAS AND THE PANSIES John Lucas: Studying Grosz on the Bus (Peterloo) £4.95
John Whitworth: Tennis and Sex and Death (Peterloo) £4.95

In the title-poem of his first full coll- ection of poems, John Lucas - or perhaps one should say 'the speaker'- looks up from his book of reproductions of paintings by George Grosz to see, on the bus with him, a pair who have 'come straight from his (i.e. Grosz's) art':


him all corm nose, her
raddled, ridiculous
face, her mangy fur;
and look at how they cart
bulging bags of shop
stuff, bought for a week
's swill and snout!
But it stops
short, this willed hate. They speak,
you see, and I've heard
each scuffed, penny-plain word
passing from man to wife,
the small change of a life
that rings clear to the heart
of the matter: life's other than art.


An admirable concluding sentiment in the circumstances, surely, but not perhaps what one would say after seeing one of Rembrandt's late self-portraits, or after seeing a performance of Macbeth, particularly since the fall of Nicolae Ceaucescu. Which is to suggest that the speaker's recognition has more to do with the peculiar limitations of Grosz's satirical art than with any general disjunction between what we like to call 'art' and what we like to call 'life'. If, after all, 'life' is other than 'art', what status has that final generalisation? What claim to truth can it make? Can it be any less subjective and arbitrary ...


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