Category: Criticism

Al Alvarez, British critic and author who championed poetry and poker, dies at 90

Author and critic Al Alvarez in 2007. (Writer Pictures/AP)

Harrison Smith writes:

Al Alvarez, a British poet, critic and best-selling author who championed the work of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, wrote a provocative study of suicide and explored his own risky pastimes in books about rock climbing and professional poker, died Sept. 23 in London. He was 90.

The cause was viral pneumonia, said his literary agency, Aitken Alexander Associates.

Mr. Alvarez, who sometimes wrote under the name A. Alvarez, cultivated a reputation as a swashbuckling adrenaline seeker as well as an accomplished poet, novelist and literary critic. Finding writing to be “a solitary, joyless occupation,” he sought escape through mountaineering, boxing, poker and aviation, then drew on his hobbies for articles in the New Yorker and several books of nonfiction.

Initially, he was known for his adventurous taste in poetry and his literary attacks on the “genteel” style that dominated British poetry in the years after World War II.