At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004


Sounds interesting, but the reviews are too mixed...I'll pass.

Ackroyd, Peter. Albion : Origins of the English Imagination. Nan A. Talese.

Library Journal: “impressive…Entertaining as well as informative, this work is highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries.” Publishers Weekly: “Even a writer as popular, prolific, and inventive as Ackroyd can concoct a bore…Where London was animated by a brilliant exploitation of anecdotes, Albion lacks its verve…often bogs down in bland thesis and empty persuasion. Yet vastly learned and frequently engaging, it may prove good bedtime reading.” Kirkus: “occasionally falters…ultimately, though, he’s saved by his erudition and panache….” Contemporary Review: “This is a very good book, in which Mr Ackroyd deploys his enormously wide reading to great effect…Perhaps the book would have benefited if the author has cited rather fewer examples, made more of them and left us to assume the width of his reading…He integrates all this threads into a whole, with no unnatural forcing and no suppression of elements which do not fit his general thesis. There is an air of intellectual honesty and openness which appeals. The division into fifty-three chapters also makes for easy reading…One does not think his history is always quite sound...Mr Ackroyd’s definition of the imagination is heavily weighted towards words and what can be said in them. The imagination transcends language.” Economist: “His magisterial study of the theme is at once absorbing and frustrating. It is slow reading, not only because the text is stuffed and encrusted with references and quotations, but because any self-respecting reader has to argue with him the whole way…His book, as befits a writer, is mostly about literature, with short and unsatisfactory excursions into paintings, music, and architecture…he traces both well and enjoyably the survival, despite the assault of Latinisms and baroqueries from the 16th century onwards, of the plangent alliterative line of the Anglo-Saxons…Mr Ackroyd, with his ear for English melancholy, surely makes less of the sea than he might have…His London: The Biography proved him one of the best writers on the city for a long time…but London’s predominance here is more questionable…Some of Mr Ackroyd’s theories of Englishness are intriguing…If he is right, Albion itself is a thoroughly un-English enterprise: a quasi-encyclopedia of facts linked with lofty theorizing of just the sort that bluff Englishmen have always spoofed or dismissed with a phrase and a fart.” Atlantic Monthly: “the most astonishing lacuna in his narrative [is that] there is no chapter on warfare, and precious little allusion to it…alarmingly slight chapter on Shakespeare… Ackroyd's unresolved difficulty, then, is his frequent inability to identify as "English" anything that could not be attributed as well to other nations… it is astonishing that Ackroyd can have left out P. G. Wodehouse, another individual who meets the test of being unimaginable as a product of any other culture…” Booklist: “marvelous synthesis…A master extrapolator and wonderfully epigrammatic stylist fluent in many disciplines, Ackroyd has created a key to English creativity past, present and future.”


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