Reviewed by: Kemble Elliot
Source: Books & Leisure magazine
Author: Craig Raine
ISBN 13: 9780195309935
Craig Raine, Fellow and tutor in English at New College, Oxford University, has explored T.S. Eliot and his poetry in intricate detail in this book. The focus of much of his exposition is the recurring theme of the “buried life” or “the failure to feel” that is found in the poet’s well-known works, described on the fly leaf as “forbiddingly learned, maddeningly enigmatic”.
It goes on to say that the book is “a volume absolutely indispensable to all admirers of T.S. Eliot and, in fact to anyone who loves modern literature”. I fall into the latter category and even though I found the analysis interesting, I couldn’t help thinking that I wish I were a student at Oxford, sitting in a lecture, listening to Raine impart his obviously passionate understanding of Eliot, first-hand. Oh, to be in his tutorial group where questions and wrangling with complex ideas are encouraged! Raine’s ability to unravel the layers of meaning, which Eliot deliberately wove into his work in a systematic way (together with obvious and obscure references to literary works, historical and mythical figures), is remarkable. It is absolutely necessary to have a copy of the poems close at hand for constant reference, or to know the poems off by heart! A book that will grace the bookshelf of many an Eliot lover.