Describing a Ted Hughes poetry reading to Monica Jones, Philip Larkin recounts how a woman began to ‘shriek and vomit’. ‘I’ve never felt like shrieking’, he continues.
When Anthony Thwaite edited Larkin’s Selected Letters, the best gin-soaked and bed-ridden Monica could do by way of letters from Larkin was a couple of dozen retrieved from behind the sofa. But now it seems that there are 2000 of the things, some up to 27 pages long.Having read the forensic lab-style descriptions of the discarded early fiction in Trouble at Willow Gables (‘The remaining fragments use blue ink interspersed with blue biro (with a brief reappearance of blue-black ink in 4a…’), and having just spent the weekend at a Philip Larkin conference, I think what the world needs now, to counterbalance the imminent unleashing of the letters to Monica, is a full analytic bibliography of Larkin’s jazz mags. What is the semen-based equivalent of ‘slightly foxed’? ‘Pages ten to twenty slightly jizzed, fourteen and fifteen stuck together.’