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My Father and Myself

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  336 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
When his father died, J. R. Ackerley was shocked to discover that he had led a secret life. And after Ackerley himself died, he left a surprise of his own: this coolly considered, unsparingly honest account of his quest to find out the whole truth about the man who had always eluded him in life. But Ackerley's pursuit of his father is also an exploration of the self, makin ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 27th 1992 by Pimlico (first published 1968)
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(showing 1-30 of 852)
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David
May 01, 2013 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
What a book! Father and son are a fascinating pair.

Ackerley's rather famous for his numerous and unsatisfying raids on the rough trade and excursions amongst the Guardsmen in and around Victoria and Knightsbridge. We know that he eventually finds happiness with an Alsation (and "Alsation" isn't polari for something more interesting). The focus here is his father. We learn that he was known as "the Banana King" (which also isn't polari for something more interesting); he was, in fact, an early d
...more
Merilee
Jan 12, 2011 Merilee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This beautifully written memoir by the former literary editor of the BBC magazine was published in 1968, with an intro by W.H. Auden, but mostly written 20 or more years earlier. Ackerley depicts his homosexual feelings and experiences in a manner which was fairly shocking for its time. He also tries to understand his relationship with his father (as well as his mother, siblings, and other family members) during a time when family members were not terribly open with each other - sometimes they s ...more
Raül De Tena
Mar 11, 2013 Raül De Tena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Puede que vaya al infierno de los periodistas por abrir una reseña de esta forma, pero el párrafo final de “Mi Hermana y Yo” (publicado en nuestro país por Sexto Piso) es, simple y llanamente, una barbaridad: “Los simbiontes son criaturas (¿de distintos tipos?) que viven unidas por mutuo beneficio. Los comensales son criaturas que viven juntas sin perjudicarse y que pueden salir beneficiadas (o no) de su asociación. (Mensa = Mesa). Los inquilinos son criaturas que viven en el terreno de otro y n ...more
Ivan
Nov 27, 2009 Ivan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best books I've ever read. I've only just finished reading it for the second time. I'm still in shock and awe. Such a story. Such a candid and engaging chronicle of one man's life and also the life of his father.

Ackerley was a pioneer of "gay" literature. This is his masterpiece (without question). A more open and honest depiction of a gay man's sexual life (his likes and dislikes, his promiscuity, sexual incontinence, and his endless search for "the ideal friend")hadn't yet
...more
Carol
Jun 02, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent memoir. British writer/editor, Joe Randolph "J. R." Ackerley (11/1896--6/1967) promoted to literary editor of 'The Listener' weekly magazine. I found the beginning strange because his parents, in younger days, hadn't been married, (WHY?) only when J.R. was thirteen years old. We learn about JR and his secretive, gay relationships.
David
Dec 15, 2014 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A frank book of the author's sexual maturity, as well as finding out about his father. Our Book Discussion Group voted to choose this in its list of 2014 books as a biography well worth reading and discussing. Surely it was a subject which many here did not want to read about or discuss. However, for me the quality of the writing and Ackerley's openness in following his trail of feelings and pain make it a very impressive book. I was the one to submitted it for Group voting, after I had found th ...more
Pascale
Feb 26, 2014 Pascale rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This memoir is unusually candid, and at the same time unusually forthright and effective in its debunking of the myth that memoirs can be candid. From the foreword where he explains that the revelations in his story were spaced "for maximum individual effect", Ackerley never lets us forget that the family saga he presents to us, although as accurate in its details as he could possibly make it, is above all a confection governed by narrative principles. So while telling us the real story of how h ...more
Richard Jespers
Nov 04, 2014 Richard Jespers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a separate review I profile Ackerley’s novel, We Think the World of You, should you wish to see my rationale for reading this man in the first place. My Father and Myself is a memoir published posthumously. In its pages Ackerley outlines his suspicions about his father’s life before marrying his mother.

He begins by examining some photographs that document his father’s friendship with a number of other handsome young men back at the turn of the twentieth century. As one who embraces his homose
...more
Kevin Lawrence
Aug 05, 2014 Kevin Lawrence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a warm and easy-going memoir. Both Ackerley and his father are incredibly charming men though, of course, not without their "human frailties." In the end, I think they both regret not being more friendly confidants with one another and that determines the very compassionate even filial tone of the book. Hard not to develop a bit of a crush on both Ackerley and his father by the time you finish the book. Especially recommended to see how open and unabashed Ackerley wrote as a gay man.
Paul
Sep 10, 2015 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and sad and fascinating and strange. What a lovely memoir.
Matthew Gallaway
Reading this book feels like sitting down with an old (and older) friend who tells you the story of his own family's past (with a focus on his father, no surprise) in a manner that manages to keep you consistently entertained and interested. Full of wit and insights -- not all of them happy, particularly in his obsessive search for an "ideal friend" or boyfriend/partner -- the book has an effortless prose that is neither too simple nor too ornate; it's difficult to think of a more "natural" writ ...more
Abby Howell
I think that in order to appreciate this book, you have to have read Ackerley's other work. Which I haven't. The book is very narrowly focused--Ackerley's experiences in the 1920's, 30's, and 40's as a middle class gay man in England. As well as the secret life he finds out about his father, after his father's death. I think that it must have been a very brave book to write, but it bothered me that we only get this fact and that fact and then another fact. No social context whatsoever. Like mayb ...more
Philip Lane
May 25, 2012 Philip Lane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book about a relationship between father and son - although in reality it is about the lack of a relationship as seems to be the case in so many fathers/sons. I feel that I want to edit this so that it takes on a more exciting form - as Ackerley junior only found out about his father's secret life very late on it would have been better to have kept it secret from the reader until much later in the book. However it seems that J.R.Ackerley felt so very guilty and ashamed of his own sexual procli ...more
Anne
Every NYRB Classic I've read up 'til this one has been a stunner--so it was with disappointment that I felt my attention slipping away from "My Father and Myself" fairly early on. Twice recently, though, I've soldiered on through initially slow-moving books only to be delighted that I had. The premise of this memoir beguiled me, and I'd read that it unfolds as a hereditary mystery with Ackerley as sleuth. Many of the book's surprises, however, were spoiled by W. H. Auden's introduction, which ex ...more
Evan
Jun 07, 2011 Evan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It must have seemed to me at the time that life was once again making upon me one of those monstrous and unfair demands with which I could not cope, that I was being put to another unwelcome test.

But how could a company commander abandon his command on the very eve of battle? That would have been seen as plain cowardice, and cowardice should never be plain.

Psychology, I believe, has abandoned a theory it once held that bed-wetting is a kind of unconscious revenge mechanism; I am sorry if that is
...more
Elizabeth
Oct 06, 2013 Elizabeth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
When his father died, J. R. Ackerley was shocked to discover that he had led a secret life. And after Ackerley himself died, he left a surprise of his own--this coolly considered, unsparingly honest account of his quest to find out the whole truth about the man who had always eluded him in life. But Ackerley's pursuit of his father is also an exploration of the self, making "My Father and Myself "a pioneering record, at once sexually explicit and emotionally charged, of life as a gay man. This w ...more
Qi
Apr 25, 2016 Qi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ackerley has a clear-eyed yet fully engaged reflections of his father and himself. How did he handle the dual subjects? Well enough, but not good enough, especially on his own account. In his own account, we see the vast span of life laid waste by pursuing of the Ideal Friend in futility and wrongheadedness -- the physicality of a beautiful animal plus a sentiment of a devoted pet. Arckerley's life story paled by comparing with E.M. Forster's "Maurice".
Sara R. Gallardo
Jul 21, 2014 Sara R. Gallardo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Le hubiera puesto cinco estrellas si no fuera por el capítulo 12, que relata su vida sexual bastante pormenorizadamente y que bien podía haberla resumido, como le criticó un amigo suyo al que alude en el epílogo, porque le resta fuerza narrativa al resto del relato y coloca al lector en medio de unas vivencias sin saber muy bien a qué vienen. Por lo demás, totalmente recomendable. Certero y tierno, para nada sentimentaloide.
Bob
Mar 11, 2012 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ackerley remains a bit obscure, despite his brilliance as a writer. His entire output is half a dozen works, mostly memoirs, two of them about his dog, his relationship with whom he freely describes as the most emotionally fulfilling of his life (like Gore Vidal, he liked to keep the sex mostly superficial and uncomplicated by romance).
He worked for the BBC for 30 years, mostly editing their literary magazine The Listener which put him in the thick of the mid-20th century English literary world
...more
Sarah
Oct 11, 2015 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
unique project, witty, bold, also follows the tale of a relative sociopathic misogynist who doesn't quite acknowledge the extent to which he is one. the reflections on his sexuality in that time period and the subtle insinuation that his father was also gay is interesting, but was unfortunately not the focus of the book (it should've been!. it was okay--not a waste of my time, also not something I'd recommend.
Lee Anne
Sep 17, 2009 Lee Anne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the early entries in the New York Review of Books series (many of which I own; I am usually sucked in by the design, and they pick interesting ones). J.R. Ackerley, once literary editor of BBC's The Listener magazine, discovers his father had a secret mistress/second family, that his (J.R.'s) parents hadn't been married until he (J.R.) was 13, and that his father, in his younger years, may have had a gay relationship with a wealthy Count. All this while telling the tale of his own ...more
Pewterbreath
Jul 22, 2008 Pewterbreath rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wowzers! The reason this book is so shocking is mostly because of when it was written and the times it describes more than what is actually in the book. Ackerley is unflinching in his descriptions of his life with his father---it certainly is a "warts and all" sort of book-

My advice---ignore the introduction by Auden---what he says is a pseudo-psychological spiel that I have problems with because it seems to indicate that gays cannot have real relationships and also because it kind of ruins any
...more
Becca
Dec 06, 2009 Becca rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: dog lovers, Brit lovers
Recommended to Becca by: Francine Prose!, books about writing
The first time I heard about J.R. Ackerley was in Francine Prose's The Blue Angel, which I read in my mid-teens, because the narrator sought out particularly perverted literature, namely Ackerley's My Dog Tulip, which is about his (real, hand to God) affair with his gorgeous, sexy German effing Shepherd. I thought this book was entirely the invention of Prose's sick mind--untrue, it turns out! Thus, J.R. Ackerley's name has remained burned in the "Wrong" file of my mind, and the first sentence o ...more
David
Aug 08, 2014 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful and sad. But really amazingly honest -- the author is quite self-critical, in ways it is easy for me to understand, having the same sort of regrets about not trying to know my father better. He also reveals things that I find astounding for a British man of his class and era, even if we might not find them so shocking in these days of reality TV, etc. Presumably because the point of this memoir is to examine the secrets his father kept from him, the author clearly decides there is no s ...more
Craig
Jun 17, 2014 Craig rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Tough read - lacked an energy/emotional connection between author and his father
Anish
Jun 06, 2016 Anish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining read, but the ending was a bit of a let-down.
Kenneth
Very interesting observations of a gay man living in England in the first half of the 20th century.
JOSEPH OLIVER
Apr 06, 2013 JOSEPH OLIVER rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gay, memoir
Even if you know nothing of the man and his work this book is well worth a read for an insight into the life of a gay man in the beginning of the 20th century which breaks the stereotype of men in similar situations.It is also a very frank exposition of his relationship - or lack of it - with his father who comes across, despite his son's prejudices as a very 21st century man. Fundamentally they had little middle ground on which to establish any other sort of relationship except based on blood. ...more
Branden
Nov 27, 2011 Branden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
the love i wound up having for this book really took me by surprise. i dont know what i was expecting, but what i was rewarded with was a bizarrely moving, inventively structured, shockingly candid memoir about fatherhood, sonhood, history, and, um, sex. the prose style is really lucid but also quite piercing. it's witty. it's rather dark at times, especially for the period in which it was written. i now have an urge to go out and read everything else Ackerley's written.
Marley
Dec 12, 2015 Marley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
DNF - Not bad at all...just boring. Maybe it's because I don't know the subjects but I couldn't get into it.
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10994078
Joe Randolph "J. R." Ackerley was a British writer and editor. Starting with the BBC the year after its founding in 1927, he was promoted to literary editor of The Listener, its weekly magazine, where he served for more than two decades.

He published many emerging poets and writers who became influential in Great Britain. He was openly gay, a rarity in his time when homosexuality was forbidden by
...more
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