Monday, March 06, 2006
Types of ambiguity
John Gross has an excellent piece about William Empson in this week's New York Review of Books (online only for electronic subscribers; I'm making headway towards getting this subscription thing worked out at the Columbia end, but have not yet got it sorted, so no lengthy extracts); it's a review of the first volume of John Haffenden's Empson biography, Among the Mandarins. I am absolutely horrified to realize that (a) I've somehow never read any of Empson's poetry before and (b) it's sort of amazingly good at least as quoted here by Gross; I think perhaps that is the thing to get and read rather than the biography, though that sounds tantalizing (but it's the notorious hazard of these good NYRB essays, that they make you not need to get the book itself--which is 695pp. and only goes up to age 33). I have been thinking about Empson recently because of Elliot Perlman; Gross's comments here on the peculiarities of Some Versions of Pastoral fit very closely with what I thought when I last read it. Makes me want to write an essay about Empson.