Pleasing Myself: From "Beowolf" to Philip Roth

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9780140297973: Pleasing Myself: From

Frank Kermode has often said that much of his best work has been done at shorter length, in the essays he has written on a very wide range of subjects for literary journals of one kind or another. This volume brings together a selection of these pieces that have been written since the 1990s, on topics as diverse as Donne, Yeats, Howard Hodgkin, gnosticism, the sea and money, as well as futher thoughts on Shakespeare.

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Review:

Sir Frank Kermode is the grand old man of English letters, and in Pleasing Myself he gathers together a collection of some of his finest literary journalism published between 1990 and 2000. Kermode reflects on the dying art of the journalistic review essay, which is "in my view a satisfactory genre, for the writer can be moderately expansive and please himself, as well as moderately expansive and willing to please". The pleasure for Kermode is that "I educate myself in public, which I take to be the reviewer's privilege". What follows are 29 elegantly written reviews of everything from Seamus Heaney's new translation of Beowulf to Philip Roth's "splendidly wicked book", Sabbath's Theater. Kermode admires WB Yeats and TS Eliot as poets, quarrels with the same Eliot and William Empson as critics, worries over the philosophy of Russell and Ayer, admires the paintings of Jack Yeats and Howard Hodgkin, castigates American New Historicism as "a bloodless ballet of social practices", and wonders "if money is a kind of poetry". Pleasing Myself is characterised by Kermode's endorsement of Empson's belief that "there was a right and a wrong moment to bring theory into the business of intelligent reading, and that the professionals chose the wrong one". Kermode is never guilty of choosing his moments badly, although some readers might find that Pleasing Myself is an interesting but rather self-absorbed summary of what Kermode has been asked to review over the last 10 years. -- Jerry Brotton

About the Author:

Sir Frank Kermode is the first literary critic to be knighted since Empson and is widely acknowledged as the head of the profession in this country. His previous books include A SENSE OF AN ENDING, his autobiography, NOT ENTITLED and the best-selling SHAKESPEARE'S LANGUAGE.

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Kermode, Frank
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