By Fr. PETER LEVI, S.J.
Fifty Worts of English Literature We Could Do Without, by Brigid Brophy, Michael Levy and Charles Osborne (Rapp and Carroll, 25s).
THIS is a series of fifty small
scale attacks, each of two or three pages, on great or popular books and poems. The attacks are always flippantly written and sometimes bumptiously conceived.
The works attacked are of uneven merit, but the attacks are of an even and always more astonishing stupidity. It is amazing that so insubstantial a collection of mini-essays should have reached print. The experience of reading it is without any pleasures; one suffers all the pains of extreme boredom without the relief of a very profound indignation.
There is even a dimension of nightmare about the degree to which these authors evidently admire their own witty powers. It is a fundamental of criticism that one ought not to make jokes without making a ca-se. Perhaps I shall be accused of the same self-admiring folly, but I protest that this review is not a joke.
Nor is it a matter of loyalty and prejudice, but simply of wanting a decent standard of honesty and sobriety in English prose. The attacks, even when they are in some way just, are exaggerated to a point where they put themselves out of court. How can people permit themselves to write this kind of nonsense?
• A long overdue reprint of James Isodor Mombert's edition of William Tyndale's translation of The Pentateuch (Centaur Press, I26s) is published today. Professor F. F. Bruce, Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis in the University of Manchester, supplies a new introduction in which he points out that our detachment from the controversies of the sixteenth century now happily allows us to appreciate Tyndale's salty, if anti-Papal. wit.