The multi-talented Clive James was an accomplished poet, and a great fan of the late Philip Larkin. This anthology, put together towards the end of his life at the suggestion of James’s daughter, collects his various writings on Larkin from an assortment of literary reviews.
One of Larkin’s great appeals was in his observation of the mundane. His long-term job as head librarian at the university of Hull seems absolutely perfect for him. You can’t imagine him being trapped in any other role. James hits the nail on the dead, when he says in the introduction:
Though it is hard to imagine him looking forward to a meeting of the library car-park-space allocation committee, or whatever grim task loomed next, it is equally impossible to imagine him ducking out of it. […] The everyday might have been full of things that he found dull, but the everyday was his subject.
The individual essays is this collection are those of a committed fan who is prepared to defend his fandom against all doubters. Readers already familiar with Larkin’s writing will perhaps get most out of the essays, although James’s enthusiasm should provide enough encouragement for anyone who hasn’t yet dipped into Larkin to take the plunge.
Finally, I need to mention the wonderful, simple yellow and grey-brown cover of this anthology depicting the Hull skyline. It was designed by James’s aforementioned daughter, and is one of the most delightful book covers I have ever seen.