Interplay : A Kind of Commonplace Book

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A commonplace book by its very nature, must be unique; D. J. Enright's proves to be a mixture of personal, critical, playful, and profound. It is a commerce between the author and many other authors, touching, for instance, on childhood, young murderers, the use and abuse of stereotypes, modern biography, ars erotica , contemporary manners, old age, animals, obsolete notions of integrity in business and government, and the machinery of dreaming. A common reader himself, and as light of heart as the subject will allow, the author explores such prose poets as Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Freud. He looks into the world of books, contemporary Grub Street, the eccentricities of criticism, the reductive tendency of current fiction, literary theory and practice, and the necessity and impracticability of censorship. There are also some new poems in a work that is amusing, and thought-provoking, and highly revealing of Enright himself Some extracts.. Voltaire, giving a lesson in tragic diction to a young actress who lacked fire: "My dear young lady, act as though the devil were in you! What would you do if a cruel tyrant had just separated you from your lover? She answered: "I would takeshow more

Product details

  • Hardback | 250 pages
  • 137.16 x 218.44 x 25.4mm | 453.59g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0192824937
  • 9780192824936

Review Text

Enright's engaging commonplace book takes multiple advantage of his work as a poet, traveling professor, book reviewer, and, not least, anthologist. Of an apparently polymathic author, Swift wrote, "what though his head be empty, provided his commonplace book be full" - which Enright notes with characteristic irony in his own eclectic one. With his scholarly career spanning Singapore, Japan, Thailand, and Egypt, and a journalistic background to balance his poetic output, Enright makes a heterogeneous assembly seem intimate and personal. There are reflections on the themes and figures of his poetry, including Faust, Adam and Eve, and his working-class Warwickshire childhood, as well as a scattering of new poems. There are also miniature travelogues from his professorships that are both searching and diverting, whether on instruction in Thai, madness in Egypt, or the actually scrutable Japanese. Professionally, his experiences on both sides of publishing - the inner workings of editors and the makeshift criticisms of book reviewers - complement his extracts from George Gissing on Grub Street, Milton on freedom of the press, and Dr. Johnson and Coleridge on writing as a career. Likewise his time as a teacher of English literature informs both his criticisms of self-involved, self-destructive theorizing and his views of literature's uses amid modern media and in other cultures. Although his self-effacing irony holds its ground in these matters, his opinions closer to home are a little parochial, be it on the soap opera Coronation Street, Princess Di, the Times Literary Supplement, or Salman Rushdie. Enright recovers himself as he winds his book up on the subjects of age and mortality, notably on fictional children's deaths and Anthony Burgess's passing. If some personal observations court banality and the philosophy is not the deepest, Enright's well-arrayed selections form a pleasurable trove of musings and browsings. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Review quote

"Extremely stimulating and important."--Stephen Spender"D.J. Enright's learning is not only prodigious, it is pertinent. This is a book that would help to restore humanism to the universities if it could be handed out to new students at the gate."--Clive Jamesshow more

About D. J. Enright

About the Author D. J. Enright is an essayist, anthologist, reviewer, and poet. His works include The Alluring Problem: An Essay on Irony, The Oxford Book of Death, Collected Poems, and Selected Poems (all OUP).show more

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