For a critic writing about a man who famously made fun of his own reputation for (pedantic) distinctions Raine is inclined towards a generalized vocabulary..."His difficult poetry was taken seriously-by everyone except Nabokov.." is just historically wrong, but there is a tendency to prefer the adulatory over the accurate, something Eliot himself might have taken issue with.
There are times when this book is unintentionally funny, as in the chapter on Eliot's criticism where Raine sets himself up to score Eliot's performance...the summary for the end of term report: "greatly gifted-But not Infallible" (p130) (Is that an A-?). Does any intelligent person think any critic is infallible? is the comment worth making? Raine reads at times like an irritated teacher putting a prize pupil in its place. "Nor is Eliot correct to upbraid Arnold for his limited scholarship" (or for saying D.H. Lawrence lacked humor) (130)and then we "turn to Eliot's suspect formulations'.....
The key to The Waste Land is The Waste land, not any critical attempt to find the holy grail of the one true key which will unlock its mysteries.That game is nearly a century old. Any attempt to make Eliot’s work, with its revisions and changes of direction across a long life seem coherent, proves little except that you can organize your reading of a large body of work around your preferred centre.It says more about the reader than the reading that is produced. Eliot himself denied that his critical program was coherent, and the lack of coherence has been proven ad nauseum. It won't deteranyone from looking for for it.
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