Sunday, 16 December 2012

Featured Author - Peter Ackroyd



Ackroyd began his literary career as a poet before moving into fiction, and has also written imaginatively convincing biographies of TS Eliot, Dickens, Blake and Thomas More. He excels in the dual narrative - two voices
separated by centuries - and has consistently focused on London, its change and its continuity, as his subject and structure. Combining accessibility with scholarship and extensive research, his work has blurred the boundaries between biography and fiction and been critically and commercially successful.
Peter Ackroyd is the author of biographies of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Dickens, Blake, Wilkie Collins and Thomas More and of the acclaimed non-fiction bestsellers London: The Biography and Thames: Sacred River. Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning novelist, as well as a broadcaster, biographer, poet and historian. 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.
In both his fiction and non-fiction writing, Peter Ackroyd places a particular emphasis on exploring and chronicling the city of London, its history, literature, culture and people. He often does this through depicting the city's writers and artists as either fictional characters or biographical subjects.  Consequently, Ackroyd is often defined as a 'London writer', and in this he follows in the footsteps of other London literary figures, many of whom feature in both his fiction and his non-fiction: Charles Dickens, William Blake, Thomas More, Thomas Chatterton, John Milton, Oscar Wilde and T.S. Eliot. Ackroyd comments: 'London has always provided the landscape for my imagination. It becomes a character - a living being - within each of my books' (Peter Ackroyd profile, Guardian online: guardian.co.uk, 22 July 2008).
Ackroyd was reading newspapers at five and had written a play about Guy Fawkes by the age of nine.
On Writing: 
“I enjoy it, I suppose, but I never thought I’d be a novelist. I never wanted to be a novelist. I can’t bear fiction. I hate it. It’s so untidy. When I was a young man I wanted to be a poet, then I wrote a critical book, and I don’t think I even read a novel till I was about 26 or 27.” 
When asked what he did outside of writing, he said, "I drink...that's about it.
The lists of his works is too long to reproduce here but it is more than worth a look.  Here is the link to Wikipedia 


Ackroyd has something for everyone.  I can recommend Hawksmoor, a fine example of the dual narrative; Poe: A life cut short and for crime fans, The Trial of Elizabeth Cree (also published as Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem)

Work in progress:
Three Brothers, a novel
A six volume 'History of England' - (Volume # 2 was published last September)
A biography of Charlie Chaplin.




19 comments:

  1. Hey - like the look of him..... can we put one of his books on our reading list sometime?

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  2. Yes, I enjoyed reading about Mr Ackroyd also. Having recently returned from a few days on the Gold Coast visiting my daughter where I enjoyed numerous cups of coffee at a little joint called Chaplins in the Mall, I will go to the library over the weekend and look for the Biography on Charlie Chaplin

    Thanks for the snapshot of this author !

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    1. I think you will enjoy his books; the ones I've read are brilliant. They would be ideal for our Group Read. Although, if I was forced to choose, my preference would be 'Hawksmoor','Elizabeth Cree/Dan Leno' is lighter and a good start. It's set in Victorian London and based on the Limehouse murders of 1880, (preceding Jack the Ripper) but it is not a straight retelling. Ackroyd is a master of atmosphere. "Chaplin" is not yet published but it is one to watch for.

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  3. I've got his Dickens biography and thoroughly enjoyed it. Still haven't got round to his 'London' and that's sitting next to Rutherfords's 'London". also unread!

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    1. It would be an interesting comparison. I've not read either.

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  4. Yup - lets get King over (if you don't want to ditch him) and start on this author!

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    1. No, let's 'do' King. Moi is now getting into the story and it will give us time to source an Ackroyd title for the next group read. Great to have the next one ready to go. I'd like to choose a book I've not read. I'll research some suggestions. Woohoo!

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    2. Ackroyd's 'First Light' (1989) is described as the most straight-forward of his work. I've not yet read it. Here's a section of a review. What do you think?
      The major strand of the plot concerns an archaeological site in Dorset, the excavation of a tumulus thought to be about 4500 years old, or perhaps older. There are strange inscriptions on the uncovered stones, the skeleton of a hanged man in the entry to the tomb, further mysteries deeper under the ground. Another plot strand has a retired music hall and television star searching for his origins – the cottages where he lived as a child, before his parents died and he was adopted. Yet another strand involves an astronomer who works at a nearby observatory, and whose job is to watch the giant star Aldebaran. The strands are carefully interwoven, both thematically and in the criss-crossing story line. There is plenty of complication and suspense, and a fine climax. The buried dead are the past but so are the stars, since years go by before their light reaches us. An ammonite reminds a character of the ‘image of a star’. A widower begins to be consoled for the suicide of his wife by learning that ‘even our bodies are built with the fossilised debris of dead stars,’ which to him means that ‘nothing really dies.’ The ancient inscriptions turn out to be star maps, the work of prehistoric astronomers.

      This is a novel about continuities, about what is rather too significantly described as ‘some unspoken and unanalysable communion between the living and the dead’, and it is leisurely and conventional in tone and manner – for Ackroyd, therefore, an unconventional move. Here we have a narrator who reads his characters’ faces and gestures (‘there was a wariness about his eyes which suggested a man who was compelled to make an effort to conquer self-doubt’), and knows what they think and do not think. He is an expert in pain and silence (‘The wave of her misery hit him now, knocking the breath out of him’); but also, rather oddly, a collector of grotesques (the lesbian lady who insists on treating her mannish companion as a piece of fluff, the comedian’s wife who commits a malapropism in every speech).


      Sound interesting?

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  5. I'm really sorry but I am just going to have to opt out of group reads. From next week I'll be back at U3A three days a week, then Hansard starts and I just don't have time. The other thing is that I have such a lot of unread books that I want to get through and don't want to leave off from what I am currently reading to read something else, and then get back to the other one.

    I'm happy to keep contributing other stuff but will have to say no to group reads.

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  6. Sounds like you also suffer from my pet complaint - 'so many books, so little time'. My pile of unread books keeps growing, too. We will miss your input.

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  7. And just to make things even harder here is a site I came across that sifts free e-books from amazonhttp://www.freebooksifter.com/uk/

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  8. The freebies seem to be either 'classics' or authors unknown to me - as is to be expected, I suppose. Thanks for the link, Jaywalker. I'll be using it - as well as Project Gutenberg.
    There are hints and tips as well as comments about eBooks scattered throughout Bookworm threads. We should have a dedicated post for them....coming soon.

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    1. Yes, you're right, I guess you get what you pay for - or don't pay for!

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  9. "First Light" looks a good read....

    Confirmation please so that I may locate the book. ( Means a trip into the city, dinner, look for a new frock, maybe a lipstick, and then Dymocks.A pleasant way to lose a Friday evening..................)

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    1. I'm happy with this one, though it may be difficult to source. It's not in the library system nor in Dymocks' catalogue. Amazon has it in paperback for $13.50. Perhaps we should choose a book which is more readily available?

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  10. I've just started Penelope Lively's 'Heat Wave' which I am thoroughly enjoying and it's quite a slim volume. Only a suggestion...don't know how available it is.

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    1. I've only read Moon Tiger and I liked it. Happy to go with Lively.

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    2. Found this on looking for some info on Lively. She's 80 this year.

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/britishmonarchy/7171502074/

      http://www.penelopelively.net/

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    3. Hate the hat! I remember I thought Lively reminded me a bit of Brookner. Have I got it right?

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