Books April 2007
On Craig Raine’s T. S. Eliot.
I heard Craig Raine interviewed on the radio about this book. Didn’t he feel, he was asked, that his often abrasive dismissals of fellow critics (“execrable,” “stupid”) lowered the standards of academic writing? His answer was contemptuous: “Yeah, but who reads academic writing, for God’s sake?”
Well, quite a few people do—he has even read some himself—and they will have to go on doing so if they want real help in understanding T. S. Eliot. Raine’s book, in a series called “Lives and Legacies,” gives a biographical chronology, and adopts a chaotic approach to Eliot’s work, the continuity and development of which are obscured. There is no mention of Emily Hale, a key figure in Eliot’s life, in the chronology or the text. Raine is outraged, on behalf of the poet’s widow (to whom his book is dedicated...
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