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This review is taken from PN Review 139, Volume 27 Number 5, May - June 2001.

IN DEFENCE OF CRAIG RAINE CRAIG RAINE, A la recherche du temps perdu (Picador) £8.00

In his latest collection of essays, Craig Raine includes a legalistic example of the genre which gives his compendium its title: 'In Defence of T.S. Eliot'. One is tempted to emulate Raine in his own behalf, for his recent output has occasioned such opprobrium - a 'tanking' as he himself might call it - that for a reviewer to continue in this line could at best be seen as kicking a man when he is down; at worst, rehashing the critical leftovers of those illustrious others - Michael Hofmann in The Observer being chief amongst them - who have given Raine such a roasting.

Of course, critical standards are not best upheld by taking a charitable approach, especially when such a notorious 'tanker' is himself under scrutiny. But to adopt Raine's methods - both of defamiliarisation and of re-examining the critical consensus for inherent flaws - seems justified. And so I write In Defence of Craig Raine, in the interests of at least a fair trial, if not entirely in the hope of acquittal.

A la recherche du temps perdu has outraged many, such as Sarah Maguire, who see in its pages contemporary equivalents to the charges of anti-Semitism levelled at Eliot. Raine has been called racist, misogynistic and a snob. His writing has been deemed 'bad'.

Before I come to the substance of these allegations, a history of the present volume. The book is one complete poem, running to forty-one pages, and ...


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