I wrote this piece in 2000, and I am publishing it now.
‘The Society of Jonathan’.
I was 22 when I first met the writer and academic, Jonathan Raban, at UEA. He was 25 – good-looking, ambitious and charismatic.
In the summer of ’68 ( that revolutionary time, which barely registered at all in the tranquil environs of East Anglia), and in my third term of my first year at UEA, I enrolled in one of his courses – on ‘American Poetry’. Raban was a star turn, a young Turk, and often didn’t disappoint; although I had started to become bored in his seminars, as he used to direct his attention, almost exclusively, to a worthy, but dull student named Alan Tuckett.
Tuckett was to marry a fellow student – Penny Allen, who was later to become the first wife of the writer, Ian McEwan. Years later, I came across Alan in Brighton, where he was running the Friends’ Centre at the Quaker Meeting House. I wonder if he ever remembered the ‘exchanges’ that he had had with Raban.
Jonathan and I became closer when he learned that I was friendly with George MacBeth and Professor M.L. ‘Mack’ Rosenthal – both living in London. Jonathan then suggested that we invite them both up to UEA to speak to the students. So, on June 11th, 1968, and Wednesday, 26th June, respectively, ‘Mack’ Rosenthal and George came up to UEA to speak about their work.