What W. H. Auden Can Do for You


Product Details

Princeton University Press
Publish Date
4.69 X 7.49 X 0.68 inches | 0.49 pounds
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About the Author

Alexander McCall Smith is the internationally bestselling author of numerous novels, including the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. His books have been translated into forty-six languages. Formerly a professor of medical law, he now devotes himself to writing. He lives in Scotland.


"A joy, start to finish."-- "Philadelphia Inquirer"
"The book comes alive when Smith connects his own moral and intellectual growth to his appreciation of the poet. . . . Anyone interested in the intellectual underpinnings of Smith's warm and humane novels should read this book."---Regina Marler, New York Times Book Review
"Alexander McCall Smith plumbs the British poet's modern resonance in this charming, quirky, slim volume, a deft weave of biography, textual analysis and memoir. It's a must-read for Auden fans--even more for those who know his work only from a British rom-com. . . . That there's only kindness in the telling marks the moral generosity McCall Smith says the great poet has taught him. He's learned a bunch of other stuff as well. And if you read his quietly wise book, you'll learn it, too."---Anne Kingston, Maclean's
"Poets need readers who aren't poets, and it is delightful to see an established novelist answer the call."---Lachlan MacKinnon, Times Literary Supplement
"What W. H. Auden Can Do for You is a graceful and personal response of gratitude for Auden, celebrating the resonance, reverence, and rebellion of the man who believed 'truth is catholic, but the search for it is protestant.'"---Mark Oakley, Church Times
"McCall Smith restores the link between poetry and life."---Anthony Daniels, New Criterion
"Charming."---Fiona Sampson, New Humanist
"An appreciation of the poet that should appeal even to those only familiar with his work via Four Weddings and a Funeral."---Eugenia Williamson, Boston Globe
"Maybe the name of this book is the most radical, insightful thing about it: the notion that Auden is, as McCall Smith writes, 'a healer, ' and that this is healing is collective. It's not just what Auden can do for you alone, but for all of us."---Alex Nazaryan, Newsweek
"A wonderful work."---Vinton Rafe McCabe, New York Journal of Books
"Of all the volumes I've read about [Auden], and all the tributes paid, the most remarkable and in a sense the most lovable is a highly personal, 137-page book by Alexander McCall Smith, What W. H. Auden Can Do For You."---Robert Fulford, National Post
"[A] charming, insightful, personal look at one of the 20th century's great poets."---Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times
"Not only does What W. H. Auden Can Do for You express Smith's deep admiration of Auden's poetry, but his paean to the messy maestro also makes for a charming, honest look at Auden's failings. . . . Still, Smith's passion for the poet cannot help but inspire us. . . . [He] wisely counsels us to turn to the poems themselves to assess how much light they shed on our lives and loves. We won't be disappointed. For as Isabel Dalhousie knows so well, reading poetry may put us on the right track, after all."---Arlice Davenport, Wichita Eagle
"Novelist Alexander McCall Smith has written a short, personal book about another abiding poet: Wystan Hugh Auden, dead these 40 years. . . . McCall Smith feels enormous gratitude to Auden, and he is a keen proselytiser for poetry: its unique force and moral necessity. . . . With poems like Lullaby and Musée des Beaux Arts, Auden transcended his obscure vocabulary and arcane interests to become that rarest of creatures, a necessary poet--the creator of works that people chant to themselves on beaches and read to the bereaved or the newly married. Again and again we return to this strange, weathered scholar poet because he helps us to live."---Peter Rose, Sydney Morning Herald
"For some people The Art of War is a touchstone. A guide to living and to life. For others it is Tao Te Ching or even The Tao of Pooh. In his latest book, number one detective Alexander McCall Smith has an admission to make: his own personal touchstone is Anglo-American poet W.H. Auden. . . . If you are a fan of Auden's work, this is a must-read."---Jones Atwater, January Magazine
"[A] thoughtful and generous guide to more than the selected poems of W. H. Auden. An uplifting, pocket-sized vade mecum it made me rethink how I read, why poetry can be relevant both to everyday life and great events and it was refreshingly illuminating on the ways we age."---Caroline Jackson, Tablet
"[A] charming little book."---Robert Fulford, National Post
"McCall Smith makes an excellent case for a young generation to get acquainted with the life trajectory of Auden as poet and as struggling human."---Barbara Berman, TheRumpus.net
"For those of us who have waded through a morass of arduous criticism on Auden, it is nice to be reminded why this poet means so much for so many. For those who have not, McCall Smith's book is a great place to start."---Neilson MacKay, NewCriterion.com
"Sheer delight in the written and spoken word beams forth from Alexander McCall Smith's overview of the life of the one of the greatest 20th century poets, the Anglo-American poet, W. H. Auden, and his work in What W. H. Auden Can Do for You. The fluency and vigor of McCall Smith's writing gives a strength and momentum to the text that encourages one to read the whole book through without pause. The accessible way in which the author introduces even some of the most complex topics that are covered in Auden's poetry makes this a gem for non-academics and scholars alike."---Lois Henderson, Bookpleasures.com