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My Father and Myself by J. R. Ackerley

My Father and Myself (1968)

by J. R. Ackerley

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The author learns as an adult that his father had a second family. He puzzles as to why he had not been trusted with the secret. His own secret was that he was a homosexual. Unfortunately he could not reconcile his sexual attraction to working class men with his romantic desire for an Ideal Friend. Not perhaps unusual in the England of the time. His account of experience in WWI is harrowing. At one point his elder brother is lying wounded between the trenches. Official policy forbade forays to retrieve the wounded and he is torn between his duty as an officer and his filial feeling. Fortunately for the author his brother crawls back to his own lines, only to die later in a different attack. I was amazed to find that, according to Ackerley, His Majesty's Brigade of Guards has a long history in homosexual prostitution, given to hanging about in certain pubs waiting for some kind gentleman to stand them a few pints and the traditional tip of a pound (about $5) to provide a bit of fun. Horse Guards cost more--no explanation of why--were their uniforms more attractive, were they more attractive, did gentlemen enjoy a horsy aroma? Ultimately the book is sad. The author concludes that his happiest period was one in which he gave up the pursuit of human love for the faithfulness and uncritical companionship of a dog.
  ritaer | Sep 27, 2015 |
The book is an account and analysis of the distant but cordial relationship between the author and his father. As such it is forthright, honest, and painful for the opportunities for closeness missed. Through a series of revelations, it's clear that the father has led a secret life which adds to the father/son distance. The author attempts to present the reader with these revelations in the same shocking way they were presented to him but his description of his father's early life gives away many of the surprises to the reader. Reading the Introduction first would blow the whole surprise. Wait. ( )
  snash | May 21, 2013 |
Perhaps the best of the three Ackerley books I've read, certainly the most forthright. The book is almost built around revelation, but Ackerley seems to know that his revelations are insufficient to carry the narrative, and so he resorts to a welcome introspective candor that stops well this side of being overwhelming. It's dedicated to Tulip. ( )
  OmieWise | Dec 18, 2005 |
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To Tulip
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I was born in 1896 and my parents were married in 1919.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0940322129, Paperback)

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 witty, sorrowful, and beautiful book is a classic of twentieth-century memoir.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:49 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Ackerley's father was a successful importer and a bluff, hearty fellow-- qualities that, in his lifetime, were little appreciated by his gay and literary son. On his death, however, he left a letter revealing that his life of respectable prosperity was a facade. Thus began what for Ackerley was an ongoing quest to comprehend a father who remained always just beyond his reach.… (more)

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NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 0940322129, 1590175263

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