The academic and celebrator of all things modern, Peter Conrad, has written a severely hostile review of A. N Wilson in today’s Observer.
The ostensible target of his critical guns was Wilson’s latest book,’ Dante in Love’, which I am reading at the moment, but Conrad’s aim seems to have gone awry as a result of personal animus( they may have history!), atheist rage, and pride at the superiority of all things now over the benighted past. Conrad justifiably accuses Wilson of producing what looks like a bit of a rushed job, in its repetitions and baggy construction, but then launches a rag-bag attack of personal hates and post-modernist hauteur. The dedication of his book to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Wilson’s status as a scribbler, his reputation for fogyism, and his insistence on the universality of Dante’s themes and dilemmas all arouse Conrad’s suspicions and ire. He seems sincerely riled by the thought of a hack saying something positive about the Middle Ages and its supreme poet, and the Christian world view that framed both. As a cultural relativist he may find it hard to see the worth of a medieval work about the afterlife, when we have Citizen Kane!
I am half way through Wilson’s book and hope that when I finish it I find it a little more rewarding than did the eminent reviewer employed by the Observer.