The autobiography of literary critic, Frank Kermode. He has chosen not to discuss literature or criticism; instead, he sets out to recreate the events, both personal and public of his life.
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'It really is a question of the weather, the private weather, unpredictable as dreams yet recognisable as a climate, that the autobiographer must describe.'
Henry James wrote that there are two kinds of lives worth writing: lives of those who have done a lot and lives of those who have thought alot. Frank Kermode, now Britain's most distinguished literary critic, falls obviously into the second of these categories. But in his autobiography, Kermode has chosen not to discuss literature or criticism much at all, though the sense of them both is palpable. Instead he sets out, in a brilliant book for which he would make no such claim, to recreate the weather of his life.
He was born and brought op on the Isle of Man: the scenes, values and legacies of that intermittently tortuous and paradisiacal society he paints with wonderful clarity. Then the navy, and some of the best descriptions of the absurdity of war since Waugh's 'Sword of Honour'.
Then what, following Verlaine, he calls simply 'the rest' – literature, literary life, literary people – individuals lovingly and plainly sketched, controversies delineated with a ferocious but never tiresome self awareness. He makes plain what he thinks is the value of all this. We may not agree with him, but we will almost certainly close the book reflecting that this combination of infinite sadness and wonderful humour is very rare indeed. It contains shocks, pleasures or amusements on every page; and it describes the climate of a life.
Frank Kermode has been Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College, London, King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge, and Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard. He is the General Editor of the Fontana Modern Masters and Master-guides series, and of the Oxford Authors. He is a Foreign Honour Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an Officer de l'Ordre des Arts et des Sciences, and has received several honorary degrees. His previous books include'The Genius of Secrecy, The Classic, The Art of Telling, Forms of Attention, An Appetite for Poetry' and ' The Sense of an Ending'. He was knighted in 1991 and lives in Cambridge.
" Frank Kermode's memoir, 'Not Entitled', is an oddly beautiful, or a beautifully odd book – a witty and useful exercise in self-depreciation, with only the most indirect hints that this abject confessor to failure and dereliction is an esteemed critic and venerated professor. Far from being untitled, he has been knighted for his service to English literature. Yet it is as an inadequate son, faulty pupil, indifferent Navy man, bad interviewee, and dupe of more worldly others that he principally figures in his own accounts… 'Not Entitled' remarkably conveys the 'microclimate' of depression at the heart of clever diffidence while being steadily entertaining, and even poetical. Flashes of fancy and a wealth of literary illusions embedded in the text ornament what could have been a drab and affectless tale… The uneasy sensation of a fundamental exclusion… has haunted him since his awkward Manx childhood. Yet is not this sensation a common human one? No amount of positive accomplishment and social cheer can cancel it, and it is Kermode's significant accomplishment, in the insouciance of old age, to have given it so delicate and circumstantial an expression."
JOHN UPDIKE, 'New Yorker'
"A beautiful book. Not surprisingly, for Kermode is a superb writer. 'Not Entitled' is unfailingly (and, it would appear, effortlessly) vivid, at times rueful, often hilarious, a portrait of the artist making his way in the divers worlds of war, literature, journalism, teaching, and writing. Kermode's distinction, as he says of someone else's, 'is too high for envy but not for emulation'."
"There is very little in literature that Frank Kermode hasn't read and thought about deeply, yet books pay a surpassingly small part in this account of his life. His main concern is that background out of which his passion for literature emerged; his impoverished childhood on the Isle of Man, and the eccentrics – some academic but most of them naval – who dominated him during his innocent twenties. His tone is elegiac but also curiously and stimulatingly baffled. Kermode is now seventy-five years old and laden with honours, yet he remains astonished by the strangeness of the people he has met and the way his life has turned out. 'Not Entitled ' is a subtle and moving book, full of insights and wisdom, and elegantly written."
Professor Sir Frank Kermode has been Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College, London, King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge and Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard. His last book for Harper Collins, ‘Not Entitled’, was described by Jackie Wullschlager in the Financial Times as ‘One of the most beautiful biographies I have ever read’. This will be his last book.
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Book Description HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS LTD, 1996. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 2555190