Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Helbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Reader Survey
PN Review Substack

This article is taken from PN Review 223, Volume 41 Number 5, May - June 2015.

Larkin: Nice and Nasty Grevel Lindop
JAMES BOOTH Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love (Bloomsbury) £25.00

For those who know Andrew Motion’s Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life, the first thought on picking up James Booth’s new biography may well be ‘Do we really need it?’ Motion’s was a long, detailed, and very well-written account by a fellow-poet who had known Larkin personally. Although Larkin’s life, like anyone’s, had its shades, subtleties, and tensions, it was not a very complicated one. There was little travel, no marriage or children, few moves or job changes. He wrote a respectable quantity but was not prolific. And although Motion’s book appeared more than twenty years ago, and new poems and letters have been published, together with Booth’s own edition of Larkin’s curious schoolgirl stories in Trouble at Willow Gables and Other Fictions, none of this has required fundamental reinterpretation of either life or work.

Booth sets out the new book’s raison d’être in his Introduction. The effect of Anthony Thwaite’s selection of the letters, followed by Motion’s biography, was to present Larkin as Mr Nasty: ‘a Tory snob with sexist and racist tendencies’, as one reviewer summed up. Yet Booth, while admitting that ‘there is no requirement that poets should be likeable or virtuous’, finds that ‘those who shared [Larkin’s] life simply do not recognize the Mr Nasty version’. Rather, ‘all those who were close to him remember him with affection and feel privileged to have known him’. Clearly, Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love is to be the case for the ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image