Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Book Reviews

Simon Heffer, Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell (London: Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1998), p. 306:
As well as continuing his intellectual life by working on his history of the House of Lords, he gave readers of The Times, in March 1963, a clue to other cerebral recreations, in a contribution to a series entitled 'Critics Under Review'. He wrote that 'I am a devotee of reviews. I like reading them; I like writing them — signed or unsigned.' He admitted that he experienced a 'little instant of happy surprise when the early morning mind discovers that it is Thursday', the day The Times published its book reviews.152 'Every single review — even the reviews of the novels, though I never read novels themselves — will have been read before I so much as peep to see if the Times has reported my winding-up speech on the middle page or dismissed my policies with paragraphs of portentous ambivalence in a third leader.' Powell wrote that he enjoyed witnessing the meeting of minds between reviewer and author, and the collection of  'effortless gobbets of information'.

For him, the newspapers only skimmed the surface of the intellectual possibilities of the review. The specialist journal was far superior in this respect, and he noted with longing that 'something departed for ever from the pleasures of specialist review reading when A.E. Housman gibbeted his last victim'. He confessed that his reason for liking writing reviews was 'terribly crude. I like to be given books.' He could not understand those reviewers who sold their books once the reviews were done. To him, 'almost any book, however remote its subject, seems to me worth shelf-room'. Most revealingly, he claimed to like reviewing because it gave him an excuse to read; at bottom, he liked the challenge with which reviewing presented him. 'The knowledge that one has to write a review fixes the salient points of a book upon the mind, like the landmarks along a route by which the traveller must return.'

152 The Times, 28 March 1963.

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