The MacLamity

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Monday, June 19, 2006

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An incredibly good description of what made Betjeman distinct. I think Betjeman tends to be thought of as parochial. But this essay makes a solid argument for his main characterisc being expansiveness -- Little England was larger than we think:
Betjeman was excited by the humble, by the everyday, by the allegedly meretricious, by preposterous kitsch, by fortuitous juxtapositions, by collisions of the bathetic and the sumptuous. He brought an aesthete's sensibility to bear on found objects which better behaved or less professionally opportunistic aesthetes would shy away from, shrieking. He wrote in 1965 to Laura Waugh about Compton Acres at Parkstone: 'a series of gardens of such unexampled and elaborate hideousness that Evelyn will want to put pen to paper again, and that wonderful gift he has for bringing out the startling and alarming and funny in the trivial will be spurred into renewed activity.' He was, needless to say, describing his own gift.