Literary critic rails at 'Jedward' of novelists

His famously stinging critique of Martin Amis's writings on Islam helped to make his name as Britain's foremost literary critic. But Terry Eagleton has saved some of his most poisonous invective for a fellow critic.

In a review published in the London Review of Books today, Eagleton is scathing of debut novelist Craig Raine's first work of fiction, Heartbreak. As a novel, Eagleton wrote, Heartbreak was comparable to defining Jedward as singers – "The description is true but misleading" – adding: "Craig Raine's Heartbreak is a novel in the sense in which Eton is a school near Slough."

The Marxist literary critic, who is professor of cultural theory at the National University of Ireland, suggested that instead of being a cohesive work, the novel was in fact a collection of short stories, "loosely linked by the topic announced in the title".

"But perhaps because the English are said to be averse to buying such volumes, the publishers have represented it as a novel, rather as Jedward are represented as singers," he wrote.

Raine, a poet and novelist and editor of the literary magazine Areté, was unmoved by the criticism.

"I really enjoyed not reading Terry Eagleton's review almost as much as he enjoyed not reading my novel," he said. The novelist added: "In summary, I gather, his conclusion is that I can't write. No piece of writing is flawless, of course. But I don't think it likely that my novel is made up entirely of flaws."

He also claimed that Eagleton's view of his work was coloured by earlier disagreements between the pair. Raine said: "Eagleton didn't like my study of TS Eliot either, nor did Tom Paulin. Now Eagleton doesn't like my novel. This is because he is reading it with a squint – from where I have poked him in the eye in the past."

He added: "Years and years ago, a girlfriend took me to lunch at the family home. Her father took an instant dislike to me, which manifested itself in his carving of the joint. Lean, translucent medallions and fragile veils of beef for everyone else. For me, an umbilical cord of gristle requiring perversely intricate surgery. You get the picture."

Raine, a leading exponent of so-called Martianism – a minor branch of British poetry in the 1970s and 1980s – has links to another of the movement's protagonists, Martin Amis, another target of Eagleton's ire. He wrote in 2007 that Amis was advocating "a deliberate programme of harassing the Muslim community in Britain" to convince them to "get its house in order", a logic Eagleton called "mildly defective".

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Chief Executive

£28, 700: Whiskey Whiskey Tango: Property Management Company is seeking a brig...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style