During the 1970s and the early 1980s Peter Ackroyd wrote countless book reviews and articles for the "Spectator," on literature, film and a number of social and cultural issues. The collection offers a selection of these incisive and entertaining pieces, which established Ackroyd's reputation as a writer. It also includes a selection of his reviews as chief book reviewer for the "Times," as well as three of his short stories.
Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning historian, biographer, novelist, poet and broadcaster. He is the author of the acclaimed non-fiction bestsellers London: The Biography, Thames: Sacred River and London Under; biographies of figures including Charles Dickens, William Blake, Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock; and a multi-volume history of England. He has won the Whitbread Biography Award, the Royal Society of Literature's William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the South Bank Prize for Literature. He holds a CBE for services to literature.
Savagely clever and bitingly humorous, obsessed with history and London, Peter Ackroyd has produced an extraordinary body of writing, from novels such as Chatterton and The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde through definitive biographies of Dickens and Thomas More to his great overarching studies of London and, in Albion, the English creative imagination. To read Ackroyd is to be enlightened, challenged, entertained and sometimes appalled; it is never to be bored. This collection of Ackroyd's shorter writings ranges from his book and television reviews to longer pieces about such diverse matters as William Blake and the character of California, with a few lectures and short stories thrown in. It's edited by Thomas Wright, who has made an excellent selection of pieces and written an extraordinarily bland introduction which serves the purpose of hurrying the reader on the meat of the book as quickly as possible. And meat it certainly is. It starts off with Ackroyd's book reviews for the Spectator, where he became the magazine's youngest literary editor at the age of 23. Unapologetically erudite and beautifully written, Ackroyd's reviews always get straight to the point. They range in tone from brisk generalisations - 'all great poets are authoritarians', he declares when discussing a biography of Yeats - to devastating humour; a review of Ted Hughes's bloodthirsty Gaudete will have the reader laughing aloud, but it also makes some important points about the place of violence in literature and the ease with which suffering becomes seductive. The rest of this book is just as satisfying. Ackroyd approaches television programmes and films with the same combination of loftiness and trenchancy as he does books of literary criticism, with often illuminating results - a discussion of Octopussy in the context of Thatcherite Britain is particularly memorable in this respect. Essays on subjects such as the English prison system and the future of London are equally incisive, and three enjoyable short stories add variety to the mix and remind one just how varied Ackroyd's talents are. For anyone who cares about literature, culture or the English language, this is an indispensable collection. (Kirkus UK)
PETER ACKROYD THE COLL
Random House (UK)
Place of Publication
Country of Publication