Father’s Day is coming up, and this year I want to get my dad something he’ll actually read. The last three books I am certain he has read are: something by George Pelecanos, Lush Life by Richard Price, and certainly something by Sue Grafton. What would be something different, but not too different?
Bryant? My long-lost half-brother? Can it really be you?
On the theory that our fathers are the same person, I would recommend Pete Dexter, Scott Spencer, the oft-mentioned-in-this-column Elmore Leonard, and maybe most of all The Main, by Trevanian, about which I remember almost nothing except that Dad lent it to me once when I was home sick and said it was really good. (And that I liked it, too.)
Dear Paris Review,
I have been struggling to understand the final stanza of Philip Larkin’s “Church Going” for a month or so. The more I think about it, the more I doubt my thoughts. Could someone please help give an explication of the stanza? I’m having problems answering bigger and smaller questions—for example, why is the air “blent”? Who is recognizing “our compulsions”? And why are they “robed as destinies”? And by whom are they robed? And to what is “that” referring in the line “that much can never be obsolete”? The final two lines baffle me as well. I’m sorry. Usually I am a very good close reader, but I have failed with this one. Please help. —Caroline Grey
A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.
P.S. It wouldn’t hurt to remind your readers how to read poetry well. Consider this a general service, too.
Thank you for sending me back to “Church Going.” I enjoyed rereading it and thinking about it again. I’m afraid these (very rudimentary, very literal-minded) answers will have occurred to you, but here is where I’d start: