Essays: Rachel Cooke on Philip Larkin |
[Invisible line of text as temporary way to expand content column justified text width to hit margins on most viewports, simply for improved display stability in the interval between column creation and loading]

Rachel Cooke on Philip Larkin

For any serious weekend broadsheet newspaper, the really valuable byline belongs, or should belong, to the general cultural reporter, of whom the most impressive current example is Rachel Cooke. The star departmental critics – columns for television and movies are predictably held to be the prime slots for the stunt writer – are often not as popular as their editors like to think. The more taxing business of the general cultural reporter, however, is not to be popular in herself, but to cover the waterfront. In addition to her wide knowledge of the arts and her gift for clear prose, Rachel Cooke has the priceless attribute of being a fearless interviewer, and she has the dramatic sense needed to put a profile together so that the subsidiary characters come alive along with the main object of homage. All these skills were on brilliant display in her June 2010 Observer preview of the collected correspondence between Philip Larkin and Monica Jones. Larkin’s executors, the poets Anthony Thwaite and Andrew Motion, are by no means reclusive in real life, but it is still quite a trick to quote them so that they will emerge as what they really are: participants in a literary drama. The deep secret of the drama, however, is brought out through the reporter’s love of the main subject. She is intimately familiar with all Larkin’s work and knows how to transmit the familiarity without leaving the reader at a loss. There are many other profiles, interviews and critical pieces by Rachel Cooke which the beginner in serious journalism should study closely, but this piece about Larkin belongs at the very top of the list.

Read Rachel Cooke on Philip Larkin