Books: The Poet as Anti-Stereotype

ENDERBY by Anthony Burgess. 412 pages. W. W. Norton. $5.95.

Middle-aged lyric poets, like middle-aged lovers, are somewhat of a contradiction in terms. There is unavoidable comic pathos when words of springtime frenzy clack through dentures and lips that taste of Geritol. But there is about them, also, a kind of Quixotic gallantry. British Novelist Anthony Burgess, 51, has caught these mixed vibrations in a funny and affecting portrait of the artist as a middle-aged man.

Enderby, 45, a flabby, balding and toothless bachelor, is the poet as anti-stereotype. The wind that blows on his Aeolian harp comes out mostly as stomach gas....

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