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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can see how it was, 17 Aug. 2009
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This review is from: The Sunday Sessions: Philip Larkin reading his poetry (Audio CD)
'This is the first time I have read before such a large audience,' Larkin once said on Radio 4. A tiny pause. 'And if I have anything to do with it, the last.' He seemed to prefer the smallest audience possible whether it was George Hartley, his tape spools turning slowly as Larkin recited his verse, swallowing both his stammer and annoyance with the noisy recording conditions; or here after Sunday lunch in a converted garage with only his sound engineer friend John Weeks for company.

We too are an audience of one for any poet we read, but the complicity between reader and writer is where Larkin particularly thrives. It's implicit in his reasons for writing ('I suppose the kind of response I am seeking from the reader is, Yes, I know what you mean, life is like that') and explicit as he invites us inside to share his bleak though never entirely hopeless view ('You can see how it was', 'Think of being them', 'We know beyond doubt'). The rewards for going with him are the vivid journeys and consolations he provides.

'The Sunday Sessions' lifts that complicity to another level. Now Larkin addresses us directly as his gently see-sawing delivery sets the scenes for his poems. These are rendered with extraordinary precision using a wide range of devices. In 'Mr Bleaney', we see 'Flowered curtains, thin and frayed/Fall to within five inches of the sill'. Condensing our waiting-room culture of patience into four brief lines, Larkin shows us, 'There are paperbacks, and tea at so much a cup/Like an airport lounge, but those who tamely sit/On rows of steel chairs turning the ripped mags/Haven't come far.' His pause in the last line of 'Home is so Sad' ensures we catch the god-awfulness of 'That vase'.

Then he gives the occupants of those settings a voice. Some are comic turns as he does Mr Bleaney's landlady, Warlock-Williams and booms 'here endeth' so we snigger even as 'the echoes snigger briefly'. Others are quizzical, delicate, finely balanced in debate with themselves. In 'An Arundel Tomb', the narrator has it out about the nature of love yet can't quite bring himself to come down on one side or the other, the optimism of the famous last line qualified by the preceding one. For the most part, the mood is benign. Only in 'The Old Fools' does Larkin's own voice seem to emerge from the poems, rising as he heads for the final warning of 'We shall find out.' In that moment, it sounds as if he's telling us about his dread of endless extinction.

But don't be put off: the quotable lines and haunting images make this CD a must-have, the typo in the accompanying track-listing notwithstanding. Now all we need to do is persuade Faber to round up the rest of Larkin's readings on cassette and LP and reissue them digitally.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 Mar 2015 09:10:55 GMT
great review! please can you give a track listing?

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Apr 2015 16:40:49 BDT
Sure:

Lines On A Young Lady's Photograph Album
1914
Toads
The Explosion
A Study Of Reading Habits
Home Is So Sad
Poem 10 From The North Ship
Afternoons
The Old Fools
For Sidney Bechet
Poem 30 From The North Ship
Next, Please
The Trees
Church Going
The Whitsun Weddings
Cut Grass
Vers De Societe
Poem 13 From The North Ship
At Grass
Mr Bleaney
Coming
Toads Revisited
The Building
Days
Wires
An Arundel Tomb
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