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
Praise for Ackerley
A Life of J.R. Ackerley
“A formidable biographical debut” — Anthony Howard, Spectator
“Parker's biography is as frank and often almost as witty as Ackerley's own books...A candid view of London in midcentury, full of entertaining anecdotes about literary figures. If Ackerley had chosen a biographer himself he could hardly have done better” — Alison Lurie, New York Times
“Timely, provocative…definitely not for maiden aunts” — Daily Mail
“Superb...meticulous and elegantly written. Parker has written a splendid biography” —
John Lahr, Listener
"Informative, funny and affecting. Parker, who writes in a graceful, understated style suggests an Ackerley more complicated – and more tragic – than the one that even his intimates thought they knew. He also manages, effortlessly, to bring in a great deal of social and cultural history, so that Ackerley emerges from these pages as a transitional character spanning the Edwardian era and our own” — Charles McGrath, The New Yorker
“Ackerley had a great luck in his biographer. Parker’s handling of the difficult material is perfect and he is alert throughout to the rich, black humour that Ackerley himself exploited so well. One feels engaged with a true intelligence from the beginning of the book to the end. All the minor characters are brought to life” — John McGahern, Irish Times
“Superb...A constant pleasure to read.” — Paul Bailey, Observer
“One of those rare biographies that makes you want to laugh and cry by turns; though strictly factual it has the teeming interior life and narrative sweep of a good novel” —
Anthony Curtis, Financial Times
“Peter Parker’s biography does for his subject what J.R. Ackerley’s own memoirs accomplished in their time; it brings to life a culture and an era. Ackerley is that rare thing – a biography equal to the works that prompted it” — James Atlas