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Long IslandObituaries

Frank Kermode, British literary critic, dies

LONDON - Respected literary critic and Shakespeare scholar Frank Kermode has died, his publisher said. He was 90.

Regarded by some as Britain's foremost critic, Kermode was instrumental in the creation of the London Review of Books, and his accessibility made him a kind of bridge between the donnish world of academic literature and novels as they were read by everyday people.

"He was one of the great conversationalists of our literature," Alan Samson, Kermode's publisher, told The Associated Press. "His wit and wisdom in speaking about writing is something that I will always remember."

Samson said Kermode was best known for his influential book, "The Sense of an Ending" - a witty meditation on the relationship between fiction and crisis. He was also a respected student of Shakespeare and he would return to the Bard often over the course of his career, which took in everything from the Bible to deconstructionist theory.

Kermode was born on Nov. 29, 1919, in the small town of Douglas on the Isle of Man, between Ireland and Britain. Raised in modest circumstances, he would eventually become an establishment figure, writing for The New Statesman and The Guardian as well as judging Britain's prestigious Booker Prize.

His dry and occasionally self-abasing memoir, published in 1995, traced his uncertain path to the top tier of Britain's literary firmament.

The book opens with a line from Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" - "He was a kind of nothing, titleless" - and goes on to describe a disappointing child who grew into a young writer of indifferent talent. Academia, he said, was the only route left open to him.

Demobilized from the Royal Navy in 1946, Kermode went on to teach at the University of Durham, in northern England - the first in a series of increasingly prestigious academic posts at University College, London, Cambridge University, Harvard, Princeton and Yale.

Kermode at first focused on Renaissance figures such as Shakespeare, but he branched out, making his name in critical circles with the 1955 book "Romantic Image," which opens with a discussion of artists and isolation.

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