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April 17, 2009

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Thanks for this great lead, DY. It is a treat, as promised. Larkin in interview mode shows himself at his best (a witty maverick) but also at his not so nice (a xenophobe )-- as when he was asked what he, a librarian, felt about other librarians who had made names for themselves as writers, such as Jorge Luis Borges. "Who is Jorge Luis Borges?" Larkin replied, adding that the literary librarian he really admired was Archibald MacLeish. I am convinced that Larkin's great poems reflect not only the wit but also the less admirable traits. Do you think I am the more deceived in thinking so?

DL: No, but you might be the less received at, say, a Larkin conference.

Hi, DL! Glad you liked the Shakespeare piece. I think Larkin’s confessed xenophobia (he was less-deceived on this point) was sometimes a pose, as when he said that he did not read poets in other languages. It seems clear from his own poems that he read the French Symbolists carefully (and in French!). Best, DY

From the letters to his intimates, I agree that Larkin took a pleasure in exaggerating his own bad attitudes and incorrect behavior. A pose, but a curiously endearing one.

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