Philip Larkin’s nothing

Wonderful wording by Philip Larkin, from the poem “I Remember, I Remember.

“Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.”

or, Something, like nothing, happens anywhere, or

Nothing like something happens anywhere or

Something like nothing happens anywhere…



self portrait by Philip Larkin

I’m reading the Larkin biography by Andrew Motion, after having learned a great deal about Larkin from reading Kinsley Amis’s and Martin Amis’s writings about him. Larkin was one of those people everyone knows, on the surface, but who only a few people are allowed to know well over a long period of time. The stereotype of his “ordinariness,” of course , is a total fraud.

It can have only survived because of his looks, which through photographs placed him in the company of a passing face in the crowd. On the other hand, everyone who really knew him found him physically striking, and, if they were allowed entre into his world, they knew his mind was on fire. What let him down were the little things, and by that I mean those little things that become big things when we’re adults. One’s traits. The tip-off to Larkin’s character is  his women pals. He had good ones, and for a long time, juggling them one, two or three at a time.

Something said early in the book about God wanting people to exercise their desires [that would be the Old Testament God, since the New Testament God is nowhere to be found], to seek abundance in life, resonates in Larkin’s life. His fears and inhibitions stimulated his desires which were met, judging from what I can see, about as well as anyone’s. But he didn’t think so, and on that he largely based his art. He early saw how life’s so-called ordinariness was the unrelieved companion of  desire and pleasure, and an antidote to fear, and of course, in his art,  he forsook standard romanticism to drive that point home.

It has led to the common misunderstanding of his work that haunts all original writers for years after their work is completed, until ultimately the work  is seen fresh by a new generation for what it really is. The New Romanticism.

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