Genre: Anthology of Journalism and Criticism

Published: 2012 - Read:

Lovely Bits of Old England

John Betjeman (1906 - 1984)

Pages: 241


A collection of John Betjeman's writing for the Telegraph over 25 years starting in 1951. The collection is concluded with Philip Larkin's obituary, which itself ends with this paragraph:

"While his death will be for many the loss of an irreplaceable friend, and for the nation the disappearance of a warm and invigorating personality, his work will remain as a memorial of twentieth-century English life refracted through a talent at once simple and complex, humorous and humble, linked with a heart of great feeling and total sincerity."

The collection is arranged under headings including: 'Betjeman's Britain' (usually lamenting what the Developers are going to tear down next), 'Sundry Articles on Architecture' (again the central theme is similar - it is sub-titled 'Must It Go?', and 'Verse, Fiction and Musings Miscellaneous'.

For me the best bits are his 'Book Reviews': Some of the books reviewed have disappeared into obscurity (at least I have never heard of them!) but others I do remember ('The Little World of Don Camillo') and others are now modern classics ('The Catcher in the Rye'). Of the latter he wrote - a very short review - "...the boy himself, through all his strangeness and his chronic indolence, is somehow sane and charming. The book carries its reader along through the force of the narrator's personality and outlook".

On Ray Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451':

"I advise it for all worshippers of speed, popular wireless entertainment, luxury flats and mechanical labour-saving devices. Once read it will never be forgotten and should be in every laboratory and technical college and atomic plant in the country - if those places are allowed subversive books".

On Golding's 'Lord of the Flies':

"What these boys do to one another is what we as adults do to one another, if we refuse to think of the common good, reverence nothing and obey only our senses".

Other titles reviewed include: 'Lucky Jim', 'The Go Between', 'Casino Royale', 'Ring for Jeeves', 'East of Eden', 'The Day of the Triffids', 'The Cruel Sea' and 'My Cousin Rachel'. Quite a varied selection...