Essays: Richard King on W.H. Auden |
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Richard King on W.H. Auden

Not, I hope, just because he has been thoughtfully kind about my own work, I find Richard King, who was born in England, one of the most interesting of the new generation of Australian journalist/critics who are spreading their range of operations deep into the web. This is a fascinating new development of Australia’s cultural internationalism, answering the same impulse that led my generation to book a passage overseas on lumbering ships. For this later crew, all they have to do is log on, and suddenly the world is at their fingertips. As a journalist, Richard King is based in the Sydney Morning Herald and the national newspaper The Australian, which deserves commendation for giving space to a writer like him, who might send his opinions in directions not necessarily favourable to a Murdoch publication’s general view. In any English-speaking newspaper, of whatever altitude, news and culture tend to be separated by a rabbit-proof fence, but Richard King has been given a free hand to make news out of culture, and without trivialising the second thing in favour of the first. For a working journalist he is unusually sensitive to the proposition, when talking about a writer, that the manner of writing is a good part of the subject. A neat example of his general attitude is the essay he wrote for the W.H. Auden centenary in 2007. Fully familiar with the whole body of Auden’s achievement, Richard King nevertheless is careful to provide enticing contact points for a first reader. He quotes just the right lines to pull the beginner in, which is the key trick, and much harder than he makes it seem. It helps that he is a carefully elegant writer on his own account. This brief, highly compressed but easily readable essay, which might come to be thought of as the ideal introduction to its subject, is now mounted in safe perpetuity on his impeccably maintained website, and can be reached from here.