45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Keeping up with the Joneses,
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This review is from: Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica (Hardcover)
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. There are limitations- the reader rarely gets a hint of Monicas perspective (though there are some useful footnotes that occasionally summarise crucial periods when she was upset about his affair with Maeve Brennan for example)There is also an overall feel for a lost period before the internet when letter writing was the only means of long and heartfelt communication- and this is indeed one of the last big collections of letters from a writer- there will be few if any from now on unless publishers are keen to print collections of tweets and emails. Larkin's enthusiasms (Katherine Mansfield; D H Lawrence; Gin and tonics; Jazz) are all mentioned and the feel for a Britain (particuarly in the letters spanning the 1950s) is tangible and touching. Larkin may come across as a curmudgeon but his sense of humour is also apparent in his gentle pastiches of letter writing styles and in his genuine affection and respect for Monica Jones. True; he refused to marry her and had relationships with other women but his relationship with Jones was truly a meeting of minds and crucial to them both. The days when one hung around by the post box for a real letter to pop through the door are long gone but this collection is truly touching, amusing, and makes even the mundanities of life sparkle again.
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Initial post: 24 Nov 2010 10:12:38 GMT
DN PERKS says:
As an afterthought its worth noting that the book contains no photographs which seems a shame considering the nice choice for the cover- would have been good to have a few more of Monica Jones who had a striking and distinctive look- there are a few reproductions of cards and letters.
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