The Magazine

Old Possum Renewed

Craig Raine's appreciation of Eliot's life and work.

Feb 12, 2007, Vol. 12, No. 21 • By EDWARD SHORT
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Elsewhere he says, accurately enough: "I think Eliot writes acutely about sex--in all its variety. He does acute justice to the variety of its disappointments." There is no more honest catalogue of the sorrows of sex than "The Waste Land." In another passage, he says that "Eliot's religious writings demonstrate the angularity and awkwardness, the unbiddable intransigence of sincere belief." This is true; there was nothing of the Vicar of Bray in Eliot. As his Selected Essays (1951) show, he enjoyed going against the grain.

In excavating the buried life of T.S. Eliot's art, Raine uncovers the unfamiliar compound ghost of genius. He has written a book that all Eliot fans and all Eliot foes will want to read.

Edward Short is writing a book about John Henry Newman and his contemporaries.