Grace McCleen's The Professor of Poetry is such an intense, complex, many-layered novel - although at 300 pages it's a highly concentrated one - that I could spend long enough trying to explore its depths here. Instead, I'll just point you towards the preview and then say that I loved it.
It reminded me a little of Amy Sackville's Orkney in that both concern professors of literature and relationships between older academics and their former students, and both are taut and tense books, immersive for the reader, and presumably even more all-consuming for their writers, but while Orkney is a melody played on a single string, The Professor of Poetry, while staying true to its chosen 'key' throughout, has greater range and richness.
It uses poetry and literary theory to fascinating effect; its setting is surely Oxford, unnamed but distilled, essential, and potent; its central characters are prickly, distant and hard to warm to; but in all its abstract, intricate theorising, its playing on musicality, time, memory and dreams, its fairytale-like motifs, stresses and exaggerations, and despite its flaws (for it has them), I was quite swept up in it. It won't appeal to all, but for those whose ear is attuned to its particular, and at times peculiar, literary frequency, it is a highly absorbing read.
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