Monday, April 9, 2012

“They mess you up”

For the first time in a long time, the word mess has appeared in a Michiko Kakutani book review. From a review of Philip Larkin’s Complete Poems:

Many American readers know Larkin chiefly from his more darkly funny lines: “Sexual intercourse began / In nineteen sixty-three / (Which was rather late for me) — / Between the end of the ‘Chatterley’ ban / And the Beatles’ first LP” (from “Annus Mirabilis”). Or: “They mess you up, your mum and dad. / They may not mean to, but they do. / They fill you with the faults they had / And add some extra, just for you” (from “This Be The Verse”).
“This Be the Verse” begins like so: “They fuck you up, your mum and dad.” If the New York Times refuses to print fuck, couldn’t the reviewer have used asterisks to suggest the word? “They mess you up” is an exceedingly decorous and misleading paraphrase.

“This Be the Verse” may be read in its entirety at the Poetry Foundation.

Related posts
All instances of mess and messy in Kakutani’s writing for the Times, 1979–2010
One mess and one messy from 2011

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