10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 17 December 2012
If you bought Bradford's previous biographies of Amis or Larkin then you're likely to feel short-changed by this duplication of material from those books. According to Craig Brown in the Daily Mail, Bradford has shamelessly copied and pasted whole pages out of those books into this 'new' one, without any acknowledgement that this is what he has done.
Even worse, the publisher's blurb says that 'The true, complex story is told here for the first time. Thoroughly researched, and brilliantly composed by Richard Bradford, author of critically acclaimed separate biographies of both writers, and of Martin Amis, The Odd Couple shows us these two literary giants as we have never seen them before.' Oh really? Both the author and the publisher should be ashamed of themselves.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 26 January 2013
Professor Bradford's life of Larkin (`First Boredom, Then Fear') is probably the best compact introduction to the poet and his works available. Now, in this book he compounds that achievement by retelling the tale in conjunction with that of Larkin's lifelong friend, the writer Kingsley Amis. In so doing the sum is significantly greater than the parts. The record of their friendship and interaction sheds a lot of new (leastways to me) light on both men.
In particular, Bradford's detailed contextualisation and linking of the Larkin poems, 'Letter to a Friend about Girls' and 'Dockery & Son' transformed and enriched my understanding of each. Additionally, Bradford argues that `Dockery' marks Larkin consciously adopting a new `hardline' emotional stance in his `private life'. This stance was then determinedly maintained to the end of his life - be it for good or ill as regards himself or those near him. Given the chronology and background of the two poems given here, I must say I found this novel thesis of Bradford's very persuasive.
Connected with the above, I warmed to the fact that (to the best of my humble knowledge) Bradford is the first scholar to treat Larkin's long-suffering and stoical `girlfriend', Monica Jones, with sustained fairness and sympathy. Better still, he highlights her genuine contribution to Larkin's mind and work. That alone made this book a refreshing treat to read.
Also, Larkin's creepy post-mortem critics - the bandwagon-jumpers and would-be cultural commissars - get a hearty broadside from Bradford. Not before time too - though Bradford still shows courage in standing up to them, Literary Establishment figures that they are.
In summary: the book is well written in an easy to read style, with deep scholarship effortlessly conveyed. It is therefore unreservedly recommended to Larkin and Amis fans alike.