A Life of J.R. Ackerley
Raffish, outspoken, blessed with good looks and immense charm, J.R. Ackerley cut a considerable dash in twentieth-century literary life. In his scandalous books he described life at the court of a homosexual maharajah, investigated the eternal triangle of two men and a dog, and uncovered the double life of his extraordinary father, The Banana King. ‘To speak the truth,’ he once confessed, ‘I think that people ought to be upset.’
An unlikely recruit to Lord Reith’s puritanical and philistine BBC, as a journalist he fought a long, hard battle to make the pages of The Listener lively and controversial, marshalling the forces of the Bloomsbury group and encouraging the talents of the Auden generation. Away from the office, he was to be found combing bars and bushes in his long, muddled and expensive search for love.
His friend and mentor E.M. Forster looked on in alarm as ‘darling Joe’ got into innumerable muddles with guardsmen, sailors and policemen. True constancy and devotion eventually came to Ackerley in the unlikely form of an Alsatian bitch called Queenie, about whom he wrote the scatological classic, My Dog Tulip.
Swinging between high drama and low farce, Ackerley’s story is at once a riotous black comedy and a comprehensive catalogue of human frailty.
UK Print – Constable, 1989
UK Print – Cardinal 1990
US Print – Farrar Straus Giroux, 1989