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Cecily Cecily

Writing Worth Reading

Poems Of A Lifetime

Great poets know when to stop. They don’t overload what they want to say with too much verbal artifice or borrowed erudition. “For a poet to be all sound is nearly as bad as for a painter to be all paint. I still find that a Swinburne poem affects me like a painting by John Bratby: there is so much impasto that the only tension lies in your wondering whether it will slide off the picture and fall on the floor” (2,553 words)

Robert Frost: The Sound Of Sense

Publication of Robert Frost’s Letters should help rebuild a reputation wrecked half a century ago by Lawrance Thomson’s “relentlessly damning” biography, a “trilogy of dud scholarship”. Whatever the shortcomings of Frost’s character, his prose shows him to be “as thoughtful and hard-working as an artist can get: further evidence that the best of modernism is a way for the classical to keep going” (2,800 words)

The Heroic Absurdity Of Dan Brown

Review of Inferno. “As a believer in the enjoyably awful, I would recommend this book wholeheartedly if I could. But it is mainly just awful. In the publishing world they have a term, ‘pull line’, which means the few words of apparent praise that you can sometimes pull out of a review however hostile. Let me supply that pull line straight away, ready furnished with quotation marks: ‘The author of The Da Vinci Code has done it again’.” (1,050 words)

The Sopranos

Classic appreciation from 2004, republished with a new introduction by the author. “In the dark night of the soul, it is often three o’clock in the afternoon on the pool terrace of a mobster’s house in New Jersey. The rule of law exists only to be flouted; power to be flaunted; any scruple to be parodied. It’s appalling. I love it. Love it more, in fact, than the Godfather movies, which are supposedly the superior cinematic achievement” (3,280 words)

How I Translated “The Divine Comedy”

One poet analyses another. “The Italian 11-syllable line feels a bit like our standard English iambic pentameter and therefore tends to mislead you into thinking that the terzina, the recurring unit of three lines, has a rocking regularity. But Dante isn’t thinking of regularity in the first instance any more than he is thinking of rhyme, which is too easy in Italian to be thought a technical challenge: In fact for an Italian poet it’s not rhyming that’s hard” (1,074 words)

Hollywood, A Love Story

David Thomson’s “New Biographical Dictionary of Film” is “a shantytown with the ambitions of a capital city. It gets bigger all the time without ever becoming more coherent”. But “as a book meant to be argued with, it’s a triumph”

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