Monday, 30 July 2012

Book Reviewing the J.L. Carr Way

Born on this day in 1898 was the celebrated sculptor Henry Moore, whose large outdoor bronzes seem these days irresistible to metal thieves. He was educated at Castleford Secondary School, where the headmaster - a remarkable and eccentric man - recognised and encouraged his talent. And where, some years later, our old friend J.L. Carr was sent, as a fee-paying day boy, by his despairing parents - and it was the making of him. The head, Thomas Robert Dawes, impressed and influenced him as few, if any, men did - whereas, by contrast, Dawes's most famous pupil, the 'Greatest Living Englishman' Henry Moore, cut no ice with Carr, who took a dim view of the sculptor's works.
  Seizing his moment, Carr in 1986 wrote what Byron Rogers (in The Last Englishman) calls ' the most extraordinary book review I have ever read'. Ostensibly reviewing for The Spectator the volume titled Henry Moore: My ideas, inspiration and life as an artist, Carr devoted his entire piece to praising Moore's headmaster, Dawes - who is not once mentioned in the book. The review ends, 'It may be a sign of the times that this extraordinary man passionately urging resistance to believing only what one is taught to believe, repeating what one has been taught to say, doing what we are expected to do, living like clockwork dolls, should be unrecognised, half-forgotten. And unmentioned.' Indeed. Job done, and Henry Moore put firmly in his place - at least, in Carr's entirely unique scheme of things.