His pieces, on the literary world and some of its most fascinating figures and classics, bear his hallmark of vitality and distinctive approach. Raine's knowledge of the span of literary theory (and anecdote) and the incisiveness of his thinking uncover as far more contradictory and complex in their successes writers customarily held in reverence. The essays range from a powerful piece on the KGB's literary archive to thoughts about tragedy in Kipling's life, from Auden, Nabokov and Beckett to the state of health of Samuel Johnson's testicles. This book celebrates the diversity of the world of books and Raine is a supremely entertaining and thought-provoking guide. 'Raine pounces on writers lacking his own high degree of linguistic resolution and independence. The citizenly impulse behind these arresting critical interventions is usually commendable. One gets the impression of a man simmering in long silence, coming reluctantly to the boil because someone has to speak up' Geoff Dyer, Guardian

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