Selected Letters of Philip Larkin, 1940-1985

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In addition to his acknowledged position as one of Britain's most important poets of the post-World War II era, Philip Larkin was unquestionably one of the last great letter writers. There are over seven hundred letters in this impressive collection, dating from Larkin's late teens until close to his death at the age of sixty-three in 1985. Early letters to school friends, including the writer Kingsley Amis, form a portrait of the young artist, full of jazz, literature, and obscenities. Later correspondents ...
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Overview

In addition to his acknowledged position as one of Britain's most important poets of the post-World War II era, Philip Larkin was unquestionably one of the last great letter writers. There are over seven hundred letters in this impressive collection, dating from Larkin's late teens until close to his death at the age of sixty-three in 1985. Early letters to school friends, including the writer Kingsley Amis, form a portrait of the young artist, full of jazz, literature, and obscenities. Later correspondents include the novelist Barbara Pym (whose fictional portraits of genteel English country life Larkin so admired), Robert Conquest, Andrew Motion, and Julian Barnes.

In his Introduction, Anthony Thwaite writes: "What is remarkable, for all the masks he put on, is how consistently Larkin emerges, whoever he is writing to . . . [The letters] are an informal record of the lonely, gregarious . . . intolerant, compassionate, eloquent, foul-mouthed, harsh and humorous Philip Larkin, who was not only one of the finest poets of our time but also a compulsive and entertaining letter-writer."

16 Pages of Black-and-White Photographs Index

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Readers of Andrew Motion's recent biography (p. 646) of Larkin (d. 1985), who's now recognized as one of the great poets of our century, won't be surprised by the revelations in this generous selection of letters. Larkin's misguided sympathy for Germany in the early years of WW II, his cranky xenophobia, his outrageous misogyny, and his devastating put-downs of other poets (especially Stephen Spender, Ted Hughes, and Vikram Seth) should also come as no surprise. After all, his problems with women, his severe melancholia, and his deep- rooted misanthropy are everywhere evident in the poetry. Not to be overlooked in all the disagreeable material, though, are the elements often missing in Motion's somewhat humorless tome. In his own words, Larkin is a constant pleasure—witty, slangy, and full of profound insight into the writers who matter most to him, from his early admiration of Auden, Lawrence, and Yeats to his later veneration of fellow plain-speaking poets such as Hardy, Edward Thomas, and Gavin Ewart. Heavily represented among the recipients of these 700-odd letters are Larkin's grade-school buddies, publishers, and a few solid literary friends. With his pals, Larkin indulged his love of vulgarity: A proud masturbator, he trades soft-core porn tips with his kindred spirit, Kingsley Amis, and with poet-historian Robert Conquest. Larkin's lifelong devotion to jazz surfaces not only in his numerous discussions of favorite albums but also in the rhythms of his prose. Most touching of all, though, is the poet's long epistolary friendship with Barbara Pym, a lovely testament to their spiritual affinity—they didn't meet until very late in their correspondence. Editor Thwaite(one of Larkin's three executors) never adequately explains the most glaring omission here—the poet's letters to family members. But to Thwaite's credit, he annotates with a light hand, ensuring that no one interested in Larkin or the course of modern poetry can afford to ignore this spectacular volume. (Illustrations)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374258290
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 12/1/1993
  • Edition description: 1st American ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 791
  • Product dimensions: 6.69 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 2.16 (d)

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