2nd May 2012
Making [an experience] seem beautiful is a little more than just prettying it up. In fact it’s something much more than that. It’s trying to make it acceptable…[and] most truths are unpalatable. You know what a boa constrictor does if it has something to eat that’s unpalatable? It sort of covers it with the boa constrictor equivalent of saliva until it can slide down easily. Well, I think that’s really what I mean by beautifying. If you have a rough truth like ‘life is first boredom then fear’ you’ve got to somehow bring the reader’s mind round to the point where that is the only possible exit from this particular situation. That’s what I mean by making it beautiful. It’s like Shakespeare making _King Lear_ beautiful. _King Lear_ is beautiful but it’s very painful.
— Philip Larkin, interview by Melvyn Bragg for the South Bank Show, Apr. 16, 1981, quoted in Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life by Andrew Motion (New York: FSG, 1993), 214-15