THE THIRTIES AND AFTER
by Stephen Spender
Random House; 236 pages; $10
Poet Stephen Spender, 69, first emerged as a member of the Auden circle, the preternaturally clever group of young writers who came down from Oxford and inherited The Waste Land. The legacy was intimidating. Not only did Eliot's masterpiece seem to leave scorched earth for subsequent poetry, but the apocalyptic dry rot it portrayed cried out for desperate measures beyond the range of literature. Spender and his contemporaries, including Auden, Louis MacNeice, Cyril
Connolly and Christopher Isherwood, watched the rise of Nazism and...