Roger Lewis at the Financial Times:
Philip Larkin was the greatest poet of the 20th century, his works an elegy for England and Englishness, a meditation on loneliness and loss. I salute James Booth for making this plain in his new book, for ever since the early 1990s the crude critical consensus has been that beneath the “monument” of Larkin’s reputation ran a sort of “sewer” that for some reason called his artistry into question.
Yet since when was it necessary to be a nice person if you wanted to be a creative genius? Wagner was horrible. Orson Welles was difficult. The controversy over Larkin’s apparent misogyny and Little Englandism took hold, however, and Booth does brilliantly well to remind us of the “quirky self-ironic euphoria and manifest enjoyment of the process of writing itself” that always characterised every Larkin sentence, whether in his verse, his letters, his reviews or his pair of novels. It is perhaps the sheer playfulness of Larkin’s high intelligence that the professors couldn’t tolerate. Booth, literary adviser to the Philip Larkin Society and a former colleague of the poet’s at Hull university, reminds us that this was a person of myriad facets – ribald, reactionary, wistful, astringent, reflective by turns.