Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Poet Worth Knowing

Though possibly not for his poetry (it's over 30 years since I was compelled to memorise his poems at school, such compulsion probably being one reason why I've steered clear). Louis Macneice's unfinished autobiography has accompanied me this past week on my train journeys, its vividness transporting me away from a blustery Skerries and rain-soaked Malahide Spit to a hot and sunny Barcelona in 1938, an adolescence of precious aestheticism in the company of Anthony Blunt and Stephen Spender, and to hours in stuffy Oxford rooms with W.H. Auden, aristocratic communists, and unworldly academics whose sole aim and function in life seemed to be to train the next generation to take their place.

Macneice writes in a delightful and accessible manner, constantly on the lookout for his own ridiculousness and, one feels, always surprised at his own good fortune. A thoroughgoing sceptic in all but his humanism, and from the look of his photo a handsome bloke you'd be happy going out for a pint or two with. My only diappointment was that this is, as the reader is warned on the cover, an unfinished autobiography, taking us up to London during the war but no further. A book double or three times this length would still have been an easy and enjoyable read. If nothing else, it has made me seek out his Autumn Journal. I feel diminished for not having read it before.


Neil said...

Clive James once began a biography of Louis MacNeice. In North Face of Soho, p18, James writes about forgetfulness,and saying "yes in order not to disappoint" mixes "malleability and fecklessness - binary ingredients of a powerful explosive", and then "the MacNeice biography joined the list of things I would do soon, once I had dealt with the things I must do that day, because they had been promised for yesterday."

There I was reading James's last memoirs and there's Louis MacNeice. And I read your blog and there's old Louis MacNeice. What are the chances of that happening?

John said...

Cool. Or weird.