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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
To his credit, Empson has been engaged in a long battle with the criticalprigs who give us instructions on what we shouldn't do when we read. Using Biography is sadly the final round in the contest. The long battle explains the polemical tone of some of the pieces in the book, whether it's a matter of saving Marvell's marriage from the critics who would have him as a celibate poet or of protecting Joyce's writings from the sour embrace of Catholicism. . . . Empson's use of biography is never reductive. He treats various authors andworks—Marvell, Dryden, Fielding, Yeats, Eliot and Joyce—but not in a way that makes a poem or a novel into a simple expression of biographical circumstance. . . . Contemporary critical prigs, whether they make their pious offeringsto the literary tradition or worship the great god theory, will no doubt findUsing Biography an insufficient or eccentric work, but I suspect that Empson will have the last laugh.