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The Sweet, Happy Side of Philip Larkin, the Sour, Sad Poet

“They f**k you up, your mum and dad,” poet Philip Larkin wrote in the late work “This Be the Verse.” “They may not mean to, but they do./ They fill you with the faults they had/ And add some extra, just for you.” Larkin kidded that those lines would be his best remembered, a guess not too far off 30 years after his death. Where others see in those lines a perfect portrait of the sour, sad curmudgeon poet, in the new biography Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love, James Booth sees something different. “The poem’s sentiment is sad, but the poem is full of jouissance,” Booth argues. “This must bid fair to be the funniest serious English poem of the 20th century.” Likewise, Larkin — target of posthumous charges of racism, misogyny, and assorted cruelties — could lay claim to being the “funniest serious” English poet of the 20th century. Booth, who knew and worked with Larkin, shows the sweet, happy side of the sour, sad poet and makes a strong case for learning to love Larkin again, if not for the first time.

Art Changes Us

Ai Weiwei. Kara Walker. Pussy Riot. Guerrilla Girls. Orwell. Art has long been an empowering outlet for speaking out against injustices. Politics aside, just the simple act of enjoying another […]

Long for the Stars

The future of humanity depends on it. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach […]

Goodbye, Columbus – Hello Exploration Day

For many Americans, Columbus Day no longer fits the litmus test of credibility and relevance. The true American character is about attaining the impossible through exploration, scientific research, innovation and creativity. Let's rename the holiday "Exploration Day." 

Drunk Tank Pink: A Q&A With Adam Alter

Today Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel and Behavegoes on sale. The author is NYU Assistant Professor of Marketing Adam Alter. I came […]

Little-Known Bible Verses: Preachers’ Kids

One of my favorite features of the old site was “Little-Known Bible Verses“, a regular series highlighting frequently overlooked passages from scripture that are immoral, bizarre, or contradict well-established parts […]