What W. H. Auden Can Do For You by Alexander McCall Smith
(Princeton University Press, 2013, 152 pages)
This is a wonderful little book. I’ve always enjoyed W. H. Auden’s poetry, and McCall Smith’s book provokes an excitement to revisit it with fresh eyes. The book’s tone is very personal as McCall Smith recounts the times and places in his life that he remembers reading Auden and the impact that those readings had on him. He traces themes like love, politics, freedom, and nature through Auden’s poetry, showing how these themes can help us to navigate the difficulties of life. Auden deals with the seeming futility of political action, the ability of love to transform the way we see the world, and the role of faith in making sense of our place in the universe. I found the treatment of the poems “September 1, 1939,” and “A Summer Night,” to be particularly good. This is a quick read, and it will be enjoyed by anyone who is interested in modern poetry or appreciates the novels of McCall Smith.