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My Father and Myself

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3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  389 Ratings  ·  56 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, 283 pages
Published September 30th 1999 by New York Review of Books (first published 1968)
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David
Apr 28, 2013 David rated it it was amazing
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 08, 2011 Merilee rated it really liked it
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
Feb 10, 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 12, 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
Carla
Dec 06, 2016 Carla added it
Ackerley set out to write a book that somehow explained his distant relationship from his father, and along the way, wrote much about his (Ackerley's) own lonely brand of homosexuality. As with all Ackerley, the style is impeccable, really cannot do better; and the way in which Ackerley reveals his father's mysterious past, masterful. But there's a coldness at the core of the enterprise, which is (and Ackerley doesn't hide this) the absence of love for either his father or his mother, which seem ...more
Kevin Lawrence
Aug 09, 2013 Kevin Lawrence rated it really liked it
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.
Carol
May 05, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it
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.
Paul
Aug 31, 2015 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and sad and fascinating and strange. What a lovely memoir.
Marijan
Jun 08, 2017 Marijan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, lgbtq
I have no idea how I came to hear about this title, I put it on my bookreads shelf a long time ago and by chance, trying to organize my shelves, decided to give this one a go, it was short, a memoir about a gay person in the early 20th century, seemed like a perfect antidote to the overlong and messy Moonglow by Michael Chabon which I was struggling with for almost 2 months. This one I devoured in a few days, I was reading it on the metro, in uber, going up and down the elevator, every chance I ...more
Svetlana
While seemingly confounded and uneventful, this memoir grows on you as you progress and certainly after you put the book down. What would you write if you had few notes and little memories? J.R. Ackerley discovers and analyzes his sexuality and the behavior of his father through the prism of the variety of relationships both entertained throughout their lives.
Mariah
Jun 30, 2017 Mariah rated it liked it
Shelves: classic, memoirs
Really interesting. I have yet to read any sort of memoir similar to it. Unfortunately, Ackerley is definitely a raging misogynist, which isn't too fun to read. I think this book is a really good look into Ackerley's life though. He's unflinchingly honest, which is sometimes a bit TMI but always refreshing. I never got the sense that he was trying to portray himself in a better light; if anything it sometimes seemed like he was trying to do the opposite and aiming for scandal. His accounts as bo ...more
Richard Jespers
Nov 03, 2014 Richard Jespers rated it really liked it
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
Pascale
Feb 26, 2014 Pascale rated it it was amazing
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
Johanna
Sep 18, 2016 Johanna rated it really liked it
It got a little repetitive, and I'm not sure I really cared about the "mystery" as much as I was supposed to...but it was a fun read, so I'll rate it well anyway.
David
Dec 15, 2014 David rated it it was amazing
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
Philip Lane
May 18, 2012 Philip Lane rated it really liked it
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 01, 2011 Evan rated it really liked it
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
Abby Howell
Oct 31, 2014 Abby Howell rated it it was ok
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
Elizabeth
Sep 28, 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
Bob
Mar 11, 2012 Bob rated it it was amazing
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
Pewterbreath
Jul 21, 2008 Pewterbreath rated it really liked it
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
Lee Anne
Jul 23, 2009 Lee Anne rated it it was ok
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
Becca
Nov 06, 2009 Becca rated it it was ok
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
May 09, 2014 David rated it it was amazing
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
Matthew Gallaway
Jul 04, 2014 Matthew Gallaway rated it it was amazing
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
JOSEPH OLIVER
Apr 06, 2013 JOSEPH OLIVER rated it really liked it
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
Sarah
Sep 30, 2015 Sarah rated it it was ok
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.
Branden
Aug 13, 2011 Branden rated it it was amazing
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.
Ci
Apr 25, 2016 Ci rated it liked it
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".
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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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