Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Another Philip Larkin Outrage . . .

Philip Larkin
(Trying to cover his . . . ?)
Sculptor: Martin Jennings
Hull Paragon Station Concourse
December 2, 2010
Photo by Paul Harrop

I finished the weekend grading of midterms and now have time for some slow 'news' . . . such as Philip Larkin saying something derogatory about Vikram Seth:
"Another load of crap from this Vikram Seth character, known to you I believe. Quite pleasant stuff, but fails to grip. Comes of being an Oriental, I suspect."

This quote comes by way of Paul Muldoon's NYT review of Larkin's Complete Poems, edited by Archie Burnett to a hefty 729 pages, most of which are a "load of crap" that Larkin wisely chose to leave unpublished in his lifetime, or so says Muldoon in "These Be the Verses" (NYT, April 19, 2012), a headline implying that Burnett has handed on Larkin's "misery to man."

But why the dissing of Seth, apparently in a letter from Larkin to Robert Conquest? What did Larkin mean? To be mean? Rather mean of him.

I went through a Seth period, even reading his novel in verse, Golden Gate, on the referral of a friend. I didn't like it at first but found it growing on me as the story soon obscured the verse to such a degree that I felt I was reading a novel rather than a poem and even came to care about the characters.

My experience of Larkin was the opposite. I first read "This Be the Verse" and loved it, but then read more Larkin and grew disenchanted, so much so that I even took that first poem as model and penned a parody: "This Be the Worse."

I did my worst . . .

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