Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Monica's monikers, 10 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica (Hardcover)
Dearest Bun, Dearest, My Dear, Dear Rabbit and occasionally - when Philip Larkin's fear of exchanging his oneness for twoness is at its lowest - Darling... you can assess Larkin's awful 40-year journey through the lower reaches of relationship commitment by the levels of affection in these appellations and others for Monica Jones. Dearest Bun is the most common term, and is certainly affectionate, but not exactly a term of passionate endearment. It keeps her close to him, but not much closer than arm's length.

Although I took away from these letters everything you would expect from Larkin's always wonderful prose - humour, elegant writing, wry insights, further evidence of his strangely appealing glass-three-quarters-empty world view - and was often moved by his life and his perceptions of his life, I was also really depressed by the lethargy of both Larkin and Monica Jones in their management of their relationship. It's easy to blame Larkin the most, for having it both ways for so long: enjoying her company when he felt like it, and her absence when he felt like that (especially when he was playing away), while she got older and more lonely and less marriageable in an era when marriage cruelly defined female value. But her own apathy in putting up with his semi-detached love and sporadic cheating is just as mind-boggling: five years is understandable, ten years is possible, but forty? This book is a bulging epistolary lesson in the awful dangers of being timid. For God's sake, ditch each other, I kept thinking...

Anyway, a must-read book for any fan of Larkin the poet and Larkin the curmudgeon, and a blueprint for any couple intent on causing each other moderate distress for four decades.

And finally, hopefully one day there will be a complete edition, when the question of whether Anthony Thwaite has represented himself accurately or vainly in this selection (he only gets positive comments by Larkin, unlike virtually everyone else) will be answered. And finally finally, as other reviewers have pointed out, the production values of this hardback by Faber are lamentable - the book was falling to pieces as I approached the end.
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