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This review is taken from PN Review 68, Volume 15 Number 6, July - August 1989.

NOT ROUND AND ROUND D.J. Enright, Fields of Vision (OUP) £14.95

It is not absolutely forbidden for a critical book to be readable, but it is unusual. Sometimes the length seems to be determined by what the publisher or the academic stint requires rather than by what the author has to say. Sometimes one has the impression that what interests the critic is less the raw literature than the theories which can be woven out of it. The best criticism - say in Dryden, Coleridge, or Eliot - consists in hints rather than theories.

The reader of Fields of Vision should be warned that it is a pleasure to read, and that this is not to be taken as a sign of a lack of seriousness. The book is a collection of some thirty pieces, signposted by the sub-titles "Television", "Literature", and "Language", which in fact represent a concern, continuously and simultaneously present throughout the whole discourse, with the position, in a world dominated by the media, of the real writer who "far from having a bent for literature, consists of literature bent into something resembling human shape". In this phrase Enright is following a tip from Kafka, but he has no need to borrow the conviction - clearly his own - that there is "no clear distinction between literature and life". Foraging this time in Mann's Tonio Kröger, he adds: "Worthy folk reckon humbly that artistic talent is a 'gift'", but "never dream that the gift in question rests upon extremely sinister foundations".

Enright pursues ...


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