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PN Review 276
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This review is taken from PN Review 47, Volume 12 Number 3, January - February 1986.

AN UNEVENTFUL JOURNEY Frank Delaney, Betjeman Country (Granada) £4.95 pb.

If Frank Delaney is the thinking person's Russell Harty, then his book Betjeman Country must be the Michelin Guide to that poet's world. Its format (rectangular enough to fit into the glove compartment) and its unremarkable line-drawings and photographs (too many of which sport the obligatory framing branches), smack more of the traveller's guide than of a book about a poet. Even Delaney himself appears to be faintly surprised by the bizarre nature of the project and his suggestion in the Introduction that the reader might 'leave his armchair and wander off in the same spirit of enthusiastic enquiry to a fair in Pinner, or a crescent in Bath or a golf club in Surrey' seems to lack any real conviction that such a journey is worthwhile. For, of course, as he admits in the Postcript - 'I finally found that the reality was not so important' - 'Betjeman country' is a state of mind rather than a conglomerate of places on a map. Unlike most recent British poets, landscape for Betjeman carries no sense of revelation or epiphany; instead, it comes increasingly, in its mild and predictable beauty, to act as a gentle anodyne against what the poet perceives to be the casual cruelty and brute insensitivity of its inhabitants. This function of nature cannot be adequately caught in photographs; it comes out instead as visual cliché and sadly much of the book borders on that. Where there are interesting photographs, or photographs of interesting things, the reader ...


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