The Horseman’s Word

Tessa Hadley writes:

There’s a fascinating anthropological study to be written about Oxford undergraduates of the 1960s – or perhaps this book is it. Roger Garfitt in his daffodil-yellow pinstripe suit and silver-topped cane – mingling with the other ‘heads’, boiling up asthma drugs for a hit, talking of samsara and Kropotkin – seems a type as exotic as an Elizabethan dandy. Friends could doss in Garfitt’s room above a garage in Walton Street – mattresses on the floor, all the furniture pushed against the walls. They listened to bebop and avant-garde jazz; they were aspiring poets presented to Auden by Nevill Coghill, Merton Professor of English Literature. This isn’t a book to read in a mean spirit – it’s not offered in one, the writing’s too exuberant and unguarded, vividly conjuring the place and time; even the most ordinary memories are recouped with a poet’s specificity. Its world isn’t fortified with protective ironies, but offered up disarmingly, complete with the strangest twist of that particular cultural moment – how comfortably all these bohemian excesses seemed to coexist with Oxford life.�

(LRB 5 April 2012)

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