The Many Faces of Larkin Reappear for His Admirers; Further Requirements. Philip Larkin. Interviews, Broadcasts, Statements and Book Reviews. 1952-85. Edited by Anthony Thwaite. (Faber, Pounds 25). Reviewed by Keith Brace
This highly readable and hardly-to-be hoped for collection of leftover prose pieces by Philip Larkin could not be more welcome, at least to admirers like myself who see him as the outstanding English language poet since 1945.
It also confirms that there were at least half a dozen different Larkins, one for each aspect of a multiple and confusing personality.
Best known, perhaps, to the skimming public is the obscene, 'racist', cynical, reactionary letter writer, particularly to his lifelong friend Kingsley Amis, no slouch in such matters. If all this was a private grammar school sixth form joke, prolonged through life, it was an oddly immature one and must have put off many potential readers of his poetry.
There was, we learnt after his death in 1985 and from Andrew Motion's excellent biography, the uncommitted bachelor, sadistically keeping the marriage hopes of three or four women dangling over many years.
Then there was the serious, admired librarian of Hull University, perhaps the best of his time in a vital and underrated branch of the library profession.
There was the poet himself, of course, not very prolific, reducing to classical diction, prosody and unforgettable lapidary expression a bleak view of life and particularly of his own, apparently joyless life. He was also acclaimed as the best reviewer in his time of his beloved jazz.
And, as in a previous collection of pieces, Required Writing (1952-82), there is the acute, empathetic literary critic, mostly as a reviewer of books. …