Carol Rumens

Larkin About

Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955-1982

By

Faber 304pp £4.95 paper order from our bookshop
Faber 304pp £4.95 order from our bookshop

Philip Larkin is a poet I love and admire, a novelist I like and admire, and an essayist and critic I respect and sometimes suspect. His reviews, lectures, interviews, etc. have been collected under the title Required Writing, which to me suggests a very mild, very gentlemanly disclaimer: ‘These are, after all, pieces I was commissioned to write, paid to write; if I’d been entirely following my own persuasion they might not have existed, or not in quite this form’. Very good; poets have a right to be as devious as they like in the interests of their professional integrity. But Larkin is so fine a poet that one would have liked more of himself in this book; I mean more of Larkin-the-poet, the writer who writes – even prose – because he must, not because he’s required to do so. Since any hint of pretentiousness or self-indulgence is clearly anathema to his moral sense, his editors could have shown far greater imagination in encouraging him out of his shell and engineering a few meetings between the irony-clad traditionalist and the risk-taking, emotionally-centred poet.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,
    • RT : One of my favourite literary magazines is celebrating 40 years this year. Here is the September edition of… ,
    • 'Now that the Thames is too fast-flowing to freeze, its spirit’s devotees ... have found other climes for their pri… ,
    • 'Bythell glowers past his till at a world in slow free fall.' on the travails of a second-hand book… ,
    • 'It is a scent of animal wrath, of instinctive need, of brutal life which affects the cultured nostrils of our civi… ,