Somewhere Becoming Rain
For a poet who is often praised for being “straightforward” and “easy to understand”, especially when compared to 20th century modernists, there is an awful lot to unpack in the work of Philip Larkin. He had the knack of making the plain seem interesting and he imbued his best works with an ambiguous strangeness that made them endlessly interpretable. One of his most enthusiastic cheerleaders is Clive James and in this slim volume he has collected together some of the many pieces he has written on the poet, along with some newer musings. There is a perceptive chapter on Larkin’s wit in which he states: “Larkin’s poetry is all witty – which is to say that there is none of his language which does not confidently rely on the intelligent reader’s capacity to apprehend its play of tone”. He also considers his novels, his jazz and literary criticism, the two major biographies and letters. This volume also allows the reader to delight in James’s own prose, which surely rivals Larkin’s in the wit and insight stakes.