Books of the year 2010 | Craig Raine

Letters to Monica by Philip Larkin

Philip Larkin's ruefully honest Letters to Monica (edited by Anthony Thwaite, Faber & Faber, £22.50) are exhilaratingly free of cant - cant about friendship, cant about sex. In the battle of the sexes, Larkin is a pacifist forced to do his bit, but never surrendering his conscientious objections. When he two-times Monica, he owns up, apologises - and goes on doing the wrong thing, not from very elevated motives. There is no appeal to passion, no amor vincit omnia. The collusive, mutually supportive friendship with Kingsley Amis is shown to be competitive, tinged with envy and disapproval. John Osborne's agile Larkin, Ideology and Critical Violence: a Case of Wrongful Conviction (Palgrave Macmillan, £55) is a fearless, cogent counter-attack on those sentimentalists and moral simpletons devoted to doing Larkin down for failing to live up to their high, hypocritical, humourless standards.

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