Accounting for oneself

November 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Larkin stopped writing altogether in 1977, the year his mother died, and in his last years the routine misery takes on a sharper, more urgently self-loathing edge, as if the one thing that had made the rest just about possible to bear had, by withdrawing, left him exposed – to the world, and to himself – as an impostor, a grotesque: ‘In the old days, depression wasn’t too bad because I could write about it. Now writing has left me, and only depression remains’: ‘So now we face 1982, 16 stone six, gargantuanly paunched, helplessly addicted to alcohol, tired of livin’ and scared of dyin’, world-famous unable-to-write poet.’

Now and then, Larkin’s misery sounds clinical, there from the start, as when he writes that ‘depression hangs over me as if I were Iceland’ or (in 1949) that he feels as if he has been ‘doctored in some way, and my central core dripped on with acid’. At other times, of course, it comes across as Larkinesque, the act he opted for because it was so easy to perform, so ‘true to life’. What might have made a difference? […]

who knows how things might have turned out if he had been luckier in his liaisons? Or, he would no doubt have retorted, more courageous, better-looking, or more ready to fork out for endless boring dinners (with no money back when it’s all over)?


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