Andrew Motion   Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 570 pages, $35

reviewed by Christopher Carduff

They are creatures of the moment, and they’ve created an end-of-the-century literary genre all their own. If you haven’t actually read their books, you’ve surely skimmed their reviews or perhaps even seen them on the afternoon television talk-show circuit. Their story is always the same, these writers, and it’s always delivered with the same straightforward, controlled, and terrible bitterness: I loved him, he was in many ways a great man, but Daddy wasn’t the little tin angel he led us to believe he was.

Andrew Motion, though he is also a distinguished poet, critic, and editor, is, in his new biography of Philip Larkin, just another such writer. His book is the high-art critical-bio version of Daddy, Dearest, but...

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