Walking Possession: Essays and Reviews, 1968-1993

Ian Hamilton, Author, James Broll, Editor Addison Wesley Publishing Company $25 (0p) ISBN 978-0-201-48397-0
Collecting the obscurely titled critical writings he produced over 25 years was apparently less a literary decision for Hamilton (Robert Lowell: A Biography) than a commercial one. To amass enough pages required supplementing the incisive essays on lives and letters, and even some bracing ones on poets and poetry, with reviews of fiction, pieces on literary life, travel, sport and other pursuits for which his zest plainly flagged. A sharp skepticism enlivens the first half of the book. A life of Jean Stafford suffers from ""more than a touch of prurience."" There is a ""bold awfulness"" to Stephen Spender's journals. Aldous Huxley's ""arid"" letters are ""unswervingly neutral."" Kingsley Amis's memoirs are at best ""grumpily workmanlike."" An acolyte's indulgent life of Robert Graves contains ""straightforward mind-reading"" and has ""a sad charm."" A life of poet Philip Larkin is ""too solemnly intrusive,"" while one of Alun Lewis is clotted with ""unnecessary literary-critical waffle."" In each case Hamilton's spleen is persuasively supported. But tedium hangs over his novelists, even over boxing, soccer and the oldest professional recreation, purchased sex. Clearly this is Hamilton's between-books book. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
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