What WH Auden Can Do For You, by Alexander McCall Smith
What WH Auden Can Do For You
Alexander McCall Smith
Princeton University Press
The Scottish novelist Alexander McCall Smith covers a broad remit in this short book, which is at its most interesting when its author analyses WH Auden’s poetry, with insightful passages on agape love and the powerlessness of childhood, or on the worm effect of certain poems, which stick in the mind long after reading. McCall Smith resists the temptation to idolise Auden, highlighting the poems that have enchanted him but also the meretricious quality of some of the poet’s work. Ironically, more attention could have been paid to style in this book. The editing seems rushed, with a number of minor textual errors, and a less forgivable misquote of Stop all the clocks. At times generalisations and anodyne asides detract from an otherwise entertaining look at the work of one of the greatest poets of the 20th century.