The Loomers

Who are the Loomers? Christopher Hitchens, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Clive James, and Craig Raine. Ben Sixsmith outlines the slow decline in popularity each of these writers has experienced over the past decade, despite their prominence in the 90s and early 2000s.

When I saw Craig Raine’s name on the list I had a sudden flashback: during my junior year of college, I studied abroad at Oxford University where I attended Raine’s lectures on T. S. Eliot for a few weeks during the Hilary term. I knew Raine was a well-known poet, but I had no idea he was connected with people like Christopher Hitchens.

In any case, Sixsmith points to each writer’s insistence that “Style is substance!” No exceptions. Unfortunately, such a battle cry ultimately leaves substance behind. Here’s Sixsmith:

One of the two main problems with the Loomers has been their often pompous attitude towards style, where linguistic cleverness has often been elevated above linguistic power. In his essay “A Criticism of Life” Craig Raine singled out as an exemplar of good prose Marianne Moore’s comparison of the top of a fir tree with “an emerald turkey foot.” This, he said, allows us to “see the fir tree more stereoscopically than before.” It does not. In fact, it diminishes the readers’ appreciation of the tree. With all due respect to Moore, the phrase has the novelty and cleverness that Loomers admire but is symbolically inapt. An “emerald turkey foot” is a comical image that degrades the dignity of a grand old fir. In another essay, Raine chided Bruce Chatwin for inaccuracy in saying that in winter “the frozen leaves of foxgloves dropped like dead donkey’s ears” but even if this is less accurate as a comparison of likenesses, which it is not by much, it has far more symbolic power.

Read the whole article here.

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