Published on July 30th, 20130
Kate Clanchy VS The Professor of Poetry by Grace McCleen
Kate Clanchy professed little love for Grace McCleen’s follow-up to her Desmond Elliott Prize winning debut The Land of Decoration:
“Novels, she tell us, should aspire to “spiritual” greatness, and The Professor of Poetry is about “time and stillness and music”. She seems a furiously serious writer, still smarting from superficial readings of her first novel, which she wished to be seen as a metaphorical account of faith. Clearly then, it is to the ideas embodied in this book, and not to its often powerful depiction of a priggish, proud and desolatingly lonely personality, that she wishes us to respond.
Of the ideas, then, and seriously, I would like to observe that only a tiny portion of Oxford is a “city of books”, and this part is built with money and privilege as much as by “sages” and “scrolls”; that tutorials should not be the stuff of laboured breathing; that a tutor who needs his students to love him is a creep; that time passes in the university as everywhere else, despite the fancy dress; that shagging your tutor is not the apotheosis of learning, still less the point of a life; and that this sort of myth-making about Oxbridge gets in the way of grown-up intellectual life in this country.”