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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, thoughtful work of general criticism, September 19, 2002
By 
Amazon Customer "jfritch53" (Pilot Point, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Dyer's Hand (Paperback)
This book of essays is a wonderful and surprising work, by the clear-minded and perceptive poet W.H. Auden. It is not a formal methodical work, like one would expect from a critic, but rather a poetic creation that provokes thought rather than defining thoughts. Auden's way of relating all sorts of things to each other, from opera to art to Shakespeare to everyday life, makes for a very mind-refreshing read. For anyone who has an interest in literature, art, or philosophy, this is a great choice.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Razor-Sharp Distinctions., April 23, 2010
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This review is from: The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays (Paperback)
This collection of essays dealing with every type of literature -- poetry, plays, operas, comedies, tragedies -- and (almost) every essay is superb. In practically every essay Auden says things that make you slap your thigh and say, "dammit, so THAT'S why I feel like that about this play [or poem, or critic, or character in a play, etc.]". The main reason is that Auden has a superb understanding of the all-important, yet subtle, differences between different concepts, characters, types of literature, and so on.

To give some examples, in one essay Auden defines perfectly the difference between PRETENDING to be in love, WISHING to be in love, THINKING one is in love, and actually being in love. In another, the difference between a comedy which makes us accept our imperfection, and a satire that makes us wish to change them. In yet another, the difference between two Shakespearian outsiders -- the Jewish Shylock and the Moore, Othello, and how their different type of "outsiderness" (Shylock, the lender, is despised but also despises the Italians, while Othello thinks his military prowess made him acceptable, which is not so); the difference between the "I" and the "self"; between a "bore" and "a boring" person -- and show why they matter.

In addition to making fine distinction, Auden is also extremely perceptive in other ways. E.g., Auden hits right on the head the problem with most literary theory written by poets: namely, that it amounts to "read me, don't read the other fellow". He notes there are numerous ways to write good poetry, and his own expertise is by no means the only way. But all this, he explains, doesn't refute the claim that poetry is a craft, and a difficult one, with words, a craft that must be learned before one can be a poet, giving in detail the curriculum of his imaginary "school for poets". He says of D. H. Laurence that he is an extremely interesting poet -- not because he disagreed with Auden's views of poetry and still wrote good poetry (Auden notes that it's easy to then say, "he forgot his theories and wrote MY way that time"), but because he wrote poetry that is best precisely *when* it violates Auden's own recommendations. This is not only perceptive, but a brave, thing to write about a fellow poet.

In almost every essay you will find deeply perceptive and fine-honed observations. One need not agree with all of them, or be interested in the subject of all of them (e.g., it is doubtful many readers would be interested in Auden's advice about how to translate Opera libretti, as good as it is in showing Auden's obvious deep love of music and understanding of same). But Auden's brilliance shines through in all of them, putting (again, almost) all other literary criticism to shame. He shows us here a little of what made him a great poet.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Christianity, Poetry, and Art, December 8, 2009
By 
Jeremy Garber "urbanmenno" (Denver, CO United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays (Paperback)
A wonderful but uneven collection of Auden's prosaic yet poetic musings on art, philosophy, and religion. The first couple sections are the best - a collection of Auden's snarky aphorisms about poetry, art, and reading ("Readers are like the young boys who scribble mustaches on the faces of girls in magazine advertisements"). The essay "The Virgin and the Dynamo" is an understated but forceful attack on philosophical materialism and determinsim, while "The Poet and the City" examines the relation of the individual versus the faceless mob. The "Postscript on Christianity and Art" is also quite good. The rest are more specific essays on various poets and playwrights - read them for your lit crit class but not on your own.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable collection, March 31, 2013
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This review is from: The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays (Paperback)
This is a collection of some of Auden's best-known essays published throughout his long career. I'm especially grateful for inclusion of Auden's Oxford Poetry Professor lectures. The book would greatly benefit from careful annotation and an index, but it is still indispensable for the Auden scholar.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Short Answer to a silly question, June 28, 2013
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This review is from: The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays (Paperback)
These essays are written by Wystan Hugh Auden--a Major English poet of the 20th century.--a man of learning, wit and ironic ntelligence. I shoud Think anyone who buys Auden in the first place is well aware of those gifts and will naturally enjoy these writings., I have no more to say!
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read, June 3, 2002
This review is from: The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays (Paperback)
Casual in a sense, not twist your brain all up in the ugly way that a lot of "theorists" seem to like to. It's straight talk about poetry. Great length too.
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The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays
The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays by Wystan Hugh Auden (Paperback - Dec. 1989)
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