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September 1, 1939 Reviews

September 1, 1939 by Ian Sansom

September 1, 1939: A Biography of a Poem

Ian Sansom

2.67 out of 5

3 reviews

Category: Non-fiction
Imprint: Fourth Estate Ltd
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 22 Aug 2019
ISBN: 9780007557219

This is a book about a poet, about a poem, about a city, and about a world at a point of change. More than a work of literary criticism or literary biography, it is a record of why and how we create and respond to great poetry.

4 stars out of 5
16 Nov 2019

"Entertaining insight into Auden"

Entertaining, insightful, partial, digressive, the “biography” is at least as revealing about Sansom as the poem itself. He moves to Northern Ireland, begins to publish detective fiction, his children are born, grow up and leave home, and still he reads and rereads the poem, all the while accumulating more material, not just from new biographies and critical work but from Sansom’s interests in seemingly unrelated materials, so that we learn about Auden and detective fiction, Auden and teaching, Auden and “odour”.

Reviews

2 stars out of 5
11 Aug 2019

"this fey belletrist whimsy sets one’s teeth on edge."

This book’s main virtue is Sansom’s all-encompassing love of Auden; his familiarity with the poet’s works — the evolution of his themes and the gradual petrifaction of his verse — is plainly evident. To read Sansom’s critical opinion of other Auden poems such as The Age of Anxiety or Homage to Clio would, I am sure, be a pleasure. But this fey belletrist whimsy sets one’s teeth on edge.

3 stars out of 5
James Marriott
10 Aug 2019

"ombines impressive gleams of insight and anecdote with baffling digressions into the Burj Khalifa, an Ed Sheeran concert and the author’s working habits"

There’s lots to love about Auden: a generous, eccentric, shambling genius. I could read trivia about him all day. I wish there was rather more of it in Sansom’s rambling book, which combines impressive gleams of insight and anecdote with baffling digressions into the Burj Khalifa, an Ed Sheeran concert and the author’s working habits. Some will be frustrated, others charmed. It’s a style that might have appealed to Auden, who once turned an attempt to review a biography of Evelyn Waugh into a rant about overpopulation. That creased face would find a sympathetic smile for his discursive disciple.