Monday, November 25, 2013

What W. H. Auden Can Do for You by Alexander McCall Smith

When I picked up What W. H. Auden Can Do for You, my interest was more in its author Alexander McCall Smith than in Auden. I have read many of McCall Smith's mysteries and other books, while my reading of the poetry of Auden has been limited to school assignments. I almost always enjoy whatever McCall Smith writes, and this book was no exception.

That said, I think I should give Auden some time. McCall Smith has told me why he is devoted to the poet, and at my advanced age I may now be mature enough to appreciate the poetry. McCall Smith points out that a reader has to take Auden's verse slowly and reread puzzling bits of it to make any sense of it, but he assures readers that it can be rewarding to those who are seeking meaning in life. McCall Smith portrays Auden as a thinker of great compassion and tolerance who can both challenge and reassure readers.

What W. H. Auden Can Do for You is not literary criticism. Its twelve chapter are essays about what McCall Smith likes about the poet. None are long and should appeal to readers who enjoy or think they should enjoy poetry.

McCall Smith, Alexander. What W. H. Auden Can Do for You. Princeton University Press, 2013. 137p. ISBN 9780691144733.

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