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Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica Hardcover – 21 Oct 2010


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (21 Oct. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571239099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571239092
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.5 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 81,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Philip Larkin was born in Coventry in 1922 and was educated at King Henry VIII School, Coventry, and St John's College, Oxford. As well as his volumes of poems, which include The Whitsun Weddings and High Windows, he wrote two novels, Jill and A Girl in Winter, and two books of collected journalism: All What Jazz: A Record Library, and Required Writing: Miscellaneous Prose. He worked as a librarian at the University of Hull from 1955 until his death in 1985. He was the best-loved poet of his generation, and the recipient of innumerable honours, including the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, and the W. H. Smith Award.

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Review

'There are moments of great tenderness and insight ... This is a proper correspondence, intelligent but easy, fluent, encouraging; we see the charm and the point of sitting down, at the end of the day, or the beginning of an evening, and putting one's thoughts into writing, and sending them off to someone we love.' --Guardian Paperback Choice

'Not only are they funny, sad and true; they are also charmingly replete with 1950s detail, evoking a world of curry-powder concoctions, rasping gas fires, and long but civilised train journeys.' --Observer

'To lovers of the poetry, this selection of correspondence that lasted forty years is completely fascinating - not just for the inadvertent light it shines on the poetry but also for the elucidation of Larkin's own taste and his opinion of his own work and worth. The length and intimate nature of Larkin's relationship with Monica Jones gives the letters and the opinions they express a compelling authenticity and almost vunerable honesty.' --William Boyd, TLS

'His low-key but oddly forceful personality is one of the things that comes out most vividly in the work - the letters are part of the poetry in that sense - and is a sort of poetic statement in itself.' --Derek Mahon, Literary Review

'These are the most intimate letters of a major poet ... Throughout, you can see the poems coming, poems you know by heart.' -- David Sexton, Evening Standard

'Philip Larkin is the best-loved poet of the last 100 years, and these irresistibly readable letters reveal the life and personality more intimately than ever before . . . He is constantly and inventively funny, concocting parodies and spoofs with loving care . . . the total effect is exhilarating. You feel sorry when you turn the last page. He said of Mansfield's journal that it made readers "more sensitive, more receptive, happier than before". These letters do the same.' --John Carey, Sunday Times

'As an editor, Thwaite treads softly. His unobtrusive cuts give a shape to the letters, bringing Larkin's clear-eyed observations of love, work and his surroundings to the fore. Fans will find the drafts of his poems particularly thrilling.' --Emma Hughes, Country Life

'Larkin's letters are affectionate, flirting, playful, even whimsical. There is something of Mass Observation about them - reflections on life, literature, domestic chores and personal feelings . . . one warms to the pair in their decent (if distanced) domesticity.' --Iain Finlayson, The Times

'Not only are they funny, sad and true; they are also charmingly replete with 1950s detail, evoking a world of curry-powder concoctions, rasping gas fires, and long but civilised train journeys.' --Rachel Cooke, Observer Books of the Year

'Unfailingly exhilarating.' --The Times

'Irresistibly readable ... exhilarating, and you feel sorry when you turn the last page.' --Sunday Times 'Our Choice'

'This superbly edited selection opens a fascinating window into the mind and spirit of Larkin ... I'd defy anyone to read this and not be impressed by his honesty, judgement and emotional intelligence.' --Mail on Sunday

'Peppered with wry humour and biting critiques, these letters are as much a social and cultural history as a reflection of his tenderness towards [Jones] ... exceptional.' --Irish Times

'I don't ordinarily like reading people's letters. Usually, too many punches get knowingly, smirkingly pulled. Larkin, of course, is different: hilarious, pathetic, niggardly, mischievous, baiting, amusingly domestic, insincere, placating and occasionally loving, and brilliant, incisive and true; he's us, in our best and worst selves written better than we could write it. Why else would a critic argue that he's the 'best-loved poet of the past 100 years'? In these letters, no less than in his poems, he stands rather nakedly before us only this time with a damp dish towel over his wrist, the room gone a bit too cold, thinking about listening to the radio from bed.' --Richard Ford, Guardian Books of the Year --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica, edited by Anthony Thwaite, is remarkable collection of letters that reveals the unseen life of Philip Larkin.

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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful By DN PERKS on 21 Nov. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This volume is a wonderful addition to the already published Selected Letters both edited with scrupulous care and sympathy by Anthony Thwaite. Larkins relationship with Monica Jones is covered from 1946 through to 1984 when they lived together, in part due to Larkins wish to look after Monica after she hurt herself in a fall. The letters are a wonderful mixture of the mundanities of life as Larkin struggles to live in "digs" that are always plagued by noise from above and below (loud radios; conversations; bangs and crashes seem to plague him). This is against a background of his career as a Librarian chiefly in Belfast and then more famously Hull. We get details of his work colleagues and his literary pursuits as he struggles to write the poems that would make him famous. Bitchy but heartfelt comments come thick and fast about Kingsley Amis and numerous other friends and acquaintances. His constant concern about his mother (widowed and alone for a long part of her life) and observations about the weather, radio programmes and his own reading habits provide a fascinating insight into this intensely private and personal poet.
His letters to Monica are often affectionate; self deprecating and full of plans for holidays, visits and observations about her own situation.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bluecashmere. TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 31 Mar. 2012
Format: Hardcover
I doubt that Larkin ever expected these personal letters to the fascinating and long-suffering Monica Jones to be published. After all he took great care to ensure that his diaries were destroyed. It seems to be an accident of fate that led their editor to discover them and there are suggestions that by then Monica was possibly not in a fit state to consider whether she or PL would have wanted them in our hands. Certainly this reader - admittedly amongst all manner of other feelings - felt at times discomfort at the intrusion. Of course now they are an institution and within one, The Bodleian, I believe. The argument goes, I imagine, that such materials throw light on what really matters - the poems. There are, of course, a number of references to particular poems during the course of their taking their final shapes. Whether this enhances our understanding/appreciation is another matter. Would we value Monica's favourite Shakespearian play, "Antony and Cleopatra", the more highly if we knew more of WS and the circumstances of his life at the time of writing? Very much I doubt it. What matters is the work. I've no doubt that Larkin is the finest British poet who stated creative life post WW11. His enthusiam for cricket is immaterial.

I think Thwaite should be commended for the disciplined, restrained and always helpful information he provides and for his self-effacing introduction. It would be good to think that at least in Larkin's personal letters to someone he certainly cared for he dropped his masks. Sometimes, during his fears about his illness he seems to. Elsewhere I wonder if he does no more than hide from us yet again behind his shared loves/prejudices/whimsies with MJ. On the face of it he comes across most unsympathetically to this PC brain-washed world.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Steve Hudson on 12 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
These letters apparently came to light after the Selected Letters were published. Taken along with the latter, and the Andrew Motion biography, this makes for a rounded picture of Larkin.

Larkin was a chameleon in correspondence, in that he adapted the style and subject matter of his letters to the addressee. compare the letters to Kingsley Amis, for instance, to those to Barbara Pym - one laddish and irascible (like Amis), the other old-maidish (prim like Pym). In contrast, those to Monica Jones, his long-term partner, are intimate and affectionate, and seem, to me at least, to be the closest to the 'real' Larkin.

He must have been an infuriating person. What struck me is the self-absorption of his letters - endless trivial detail of the food he eats, the records he listens to, the books he reads, his groans of despair at having to work, his gripes over money, his constant feeling of being put-upon by the presence of others (which to Larkin amounts to theft of his time and energy), and, most of all, the horror of other peoples' noise. Very rarely does he refer to anything of Monica's life.

But despite all that, you can understand why women found him attractive. He's emotionally sensitive, expressive and funny. He is also affectionate, albeit in a slightly distant way. He refers to Jones throughout as a rabbit ('Dearest Bun') which paradoxically also seems a way of distancing her from him.

There is a lot of intentional humour here, which also emerges in some of the poems, but there's a lot that's unintentionally comic, too. Larkin's resentment of others is particularly funny.
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