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This article is taken from PN Review 218, Volume 40 Number 6, July - August 2014.

The Long Perspectives: The Movement Reconsidered James Keery
The Movement Reconsidered: Essays on Larkin, Amis, Gunn, Davie and Their Contemporaries, ed. Zachary Leader (Oxford University Press, 2009) £30.00

According to Zachary Leader, contemporary debate about the Movement ‘is crude and needs refining’. Attacks by ‘champions of modernism […] are often as extreme as the anti-modernist accusations that sparked them’. In view of its ‘literary-historical importance’, therefore, a ‘balanced reassessment’ of the Movement is ‘overdue’. Promisingly, Leader acknowledges the need to look beyond the pages of the Spectator, in which the Movement was christened and promoted, and its principal anthology, New Lines: ‘this book sets out to show […] that relations between Movement and other post-war British writers were more complex and nuanced than is usually suggested’.

This is the book I would have liked to read. The ‘literary-historical importance’ of the Movement is indeed, for me as for its editor, a ‘given’. For my money, Philip Larkin is as great a poet, in almost as bright a constellation, as Dylan Thomas or J.H. Prynne.

As it happens, the two best essays are both on Larkin. In ‘The Lesbianism of Philip Larkin’, Terry Castle brings generosity, insight and wit to her appraisal of his novels and the material collected in Trouble at Willow Gables. In conclusion, she offers a serious answer to an ironic question: ‘Can Philip Larkin be forgiven?’ Her answer, implicit in a question of her own, is prompted by a journalist’s sneer. With ‘curranty eyes blinking out from behind a couple of jam-jar bottoms’, ‘Larkin was’, in Rachel Cooke’s opinion, ...

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