Friday, April 15, 2016

Specializing in being ungenerous

The poet, Edwin Muir, had to make money in diverse ways (as poets tend to) - writing a biography, say, of John Knox, ironically the man that came closest to inspiring loathing in Muir's gentle soul or writing reviews. But even if hard up (as he and his wife, Willa, often were), he had one cast iron rule which was never to review anything about which one could not be generous. This is a rule I wish sundry reviewers in 'The Tablet' (the intellectual Catholic weekly) could aspire to.

Today it is the turn of Michael McGregor's excellent biography of Robert Lax to be lauded by one hand and damned with another. I cannot imagine how we get from 'detailed, respectful and responsible telling' that is 'at times a sympathetic and extraordinarily sensitive reading of a life' to one that is a 'somewhat tedious reading experience' that better be left behind in favour of Lax's words themselves but Carlene Bauer manages this feat. Which is it to be a sensitive entrance or a tedious departure?

I definitely prefered the former see here: http://ncolloff.blogspot.nl/2015/10/pure-act.html

I can appreciate a reviewer sagging under the weight of 'monumental' modern biography where every move of the subject is thoroughly explored and their internal life is left strangely in abeyance (especially with regard to idea, belief or faith). But McGregor's book does not sag under its own weight and finds illumination throughout Lax's long and, in truth, rather eventful life (in a quiet way as befits its subject).





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