In his New Yorker review of the recent biography of Philip Larkin, Martin Amis gave a strong defense of Larkin against the charges of sexism, racism, moral squalor, and so on, then making the literary rounds. Much of this defense was built around the idea that Larkin had grown up and lived at a time when racism, as now defined, was so common as not to invite censure, and when sexism did not exist as a category of sin into which one could fall. But, perhaps feeling that he needed to guard Larkin against the secondary charge of making no effort at all to move when the times did, indeed of resisting any such movement with determination, Mr. Amis embarked on the following philosophical exercise:

Larkin the man is separated from us, historically, by changes in the self. For his generation, you were what you were, and that was that. It made you unswervable and adamantine. My father has this quality. I don’t. None of us do....


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