He writes about things that matter, such as the horrors of history and abuses of language. Better still, he tries to redeem language by honouring his words' etymologies and exploring their potential. In this collection he comes closest to attaining that redemption, with bursts of rapture and occasionally colourful landscapes. It is, we learn, a kind of Paradiso, making, together with his previous three books, a kind of Divina commedia. That said, you might laugh more reading Dante. In a periodical called Stand (whose latest issue is mostly devoted to Hill, coming as it does from Leeds University, where he used to teach), one friend lets slip that secretaries used to call him "Chuckles".I was, at any rate, surprised to find this in stanza 50:
Covenants, yes; outcries, yes; systemicDoomsday Book, presumably (something about The Black Death, that is); and more to the point, irony, presumably.
disorders like the names of rock-plants, yes;
right side for creativity, yes; and well
if none of us / fails our prevision.
Re SEVENTH SEAL: prefer bright Connie
Willis to glum Ingmar? Pass.