English Music

English Music

by Peter Ackroyd

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780241132579
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date: 02/29/2000

What People are Saying About This

T.A. Shippey

Ackroyd is a connoisseur, whose pastiches show not only sharp sight and counterfeiting ability, but also deep love of what he is rewriting. . . . [He is] let down only by his consistently poor grasp of Middle English verb inflections (double First at Cambridge: well, that figures). Still, even that I can forgive him, for remembering, and working in Layamon, the forgotten poet (still not fully edited) of Arley Regis in Worcestershire, Ackroyd lets little slip. He is a great reminder. Reading him, you become conscious of the great wealth of the tradition which normally drifts by us unrecognized.

If the conventional recommendation is to say that, finishing a book, you want to start it again, then Ackroyd has a more selfless effect: finishing English Music, you want to go and dig forgotten books off dusty shelves, look again at Hogarth, find the old record of Purcell. It's an eye-opener. An ear-opener, too.

Verlyn Klinkenborg

[The author's] version of cultural dynamics is at once romantic and conservative, and perhaps not necessarily to be disparaged for being so. But what if you're not just nostalgic about English literature? What if you still feel the real force of Shakespeare or Milton -- or even [{Ernest] Dowson? What if the stuff matters to you? Then I don't think English Music can matter to you, too. . . . The borrowed characters in this novel -- Alice, Christian, Miss Havisham, Albion -- can be only as big as Timothy, after all, and that is not big enough. In English Music, Ackroyd's imitations of Defoe and Blake and Dickens and Malory only remind the reader how wan these imitations really are.

The story of English literature becomes a parlor game through which Timothy -- the hero of what might have been a pretty fair conventional novel--sullenly wanders.

Alison Lurie

In his sixth novel, English Music, the brilliantly quirky British writer Peter Ackroyd combines the two genres that have made his reputation: fiction and literary biography. For his frame story, he returns to the byways of English history that inspired his earlier novels. And in interleaved chapters he reimagines the lives of famous English writers. . . . [{The novel] will please readers who enjoy literary theory and literary puzzles (can you spot the quotations from Langland and Coleridge?). But it should also be welcomed by those who admire the works of Robertson Davies and Charles Williams, which also play upon the power of the creative imagination to discover a supernatural order behind the appearance of this world.

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