In the best review I've read so far of Hitch-22 - which I found very hard to put down - is this appreciation by Michael Weiss. Weiss sees consistencies where others less intelligent see contradictions. This passage on Larkin is spot-on:
So far from being quintessentially English,’ Larkin was a wry and melancholy observer of postwar English anxieties and insecurities. Resentful of how his generation had been made to foot a historic bill that in low moments could seem unworthy of the cost (though he didn’t fight in World War II), wary of the entitlement and decadence that had come to define that generation’s offspring (not that he had any kids himself), Larkin was at least disciplined in his resentment and wariness where it mattered most. His poems were ironic and wistful and in places surprisingly heartfelt.
Larkin was the eulogist for a bygone England, one that had paved over and abandoned to bleak high-risers’, M1 cafes, parking lots and concrete and tyres’. How curmudgeonly could a man be who apostrophized the native rabbit population, which had been cruelly reduced by means of a manmade virus called Myxomatosis: I'm glad I can't explain / Just in what jaws you were to suppurate.’
Larkin was possessed of an uncommon self-awareness that preempted even the harshest animadversions leveled against him by a smug literary commissariat after he was long gone. To uncover his supposed nastiness--the mental barks and growls--they had to rummage through his correspondence, his diary. Christopher’s plaint was that the poet demanded was a proper historical study, not self-righteous condemnation. It fell to the lot of the Left to see Larkin as emblematic of a little-investigated substratum of English sociology. E.P. Thompson gave us the The Making of the English Working Class; The Making of the English Petty Bourgeoisie was still forthcoming. The failure to comprehend the fundamental seriousness behind the Larkinesque generational posture is what ultimately caused that Left to experience cataclysmic shifts -- the Falklands War and the rise of Thatcher -- as bewildering shocks. A true student of Orwell, Christopher was never so cosmopolitan as to miss the idiosyncrasies and discreet charms of his own native land.
The “and that will be England gone” Tory provincial is perfectly caught in an anecdote Christopher relays about his father, who was once asked by a superior to co-host a party for naval officers that hadn’t been invited to the livelier dos because they were all bores. The Commander’s withering and self-abnegating reply, which nearly brought Christopher to tears, was: “I believe I have already received my invitation, sir.” Something toad-like squatted in him, too.
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