“One to give: I would like to give JR Ackerley’s My Father and Myself to the entire Tory shadow cabinet. While ostensibly fashioning a memoir of a late Victorian bourgeois paterfamilias, Ackerley – who was arts editor for The Listener – turned out what is probably the most subversive book about British social mores and social hierarchy ever written. Both Ackerleys served in the Army, JR fought in the first world war, his father had served in the Guards and was a respected importer of bananas. However, Ackerley fils was gay, while Ackerley père was a bisexual former rent boy and a bigamist to boot. The brilliance of this book is that – rather like Robert Graves’s Goodbye to All That – it shows how tissue-thin the narrative of power and ‘respectable’ class-consciousness always has been. The likes of David Cameron should read this book and think again if they believe hegemony to be part of their birthright.
“One to get: I was recently given a copy of David Flusfeder’s brilliant new novel A Film by Spencer Ludwig — and it’s the new gifts that count most with me!”