Confessions: A Life of Failed Promises

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Confessions: A Life of Failed Promises

Confessions: A Life of Failed Promises

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The Hogarth Press where I’m working, is in the heart of the literary world, with authors coming in all the time. Before he came to London, as one of the ‘Best of Young British’ novelists, and Literary Editor of the Spectator, we meet another A. At every turn of this reminiscence, Wilson is baffled by his earlier self – whether he is flirting with unsuitable lovers or with the idea of the priesthood. We meet his father, the Managing Director of Wedgwood, the grotesque teachers at his first boarding school, and the dons of Oxford - one of whom, at the age of just 20, he married, the renowned Shakespearean scholar, the late Katherine Duncan-Jones. Literary Review * Descriptions of life as a theological student have the mischievous, observant wit of an accomplished humourist.

Jacqueline Wilson, bestselling children's author * Deliciously delicate barbs are scattered throughout the pages. The Hudson Review * His memoir is, of course, highly readable; full of gossip and catty stories about the people he mixed with in the worlds of journalism, academia and publishing.Wilson is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and holds a prominent position in the world of literature and journalism.

Daily Telegraph * Wilson is a torrentially readable autobiographer, capable of howlingly funny paragraphs, desperately sad scenes, gay slapstick, literary analysis and gossipy name-dropping in the same chapter.The princesses, dons, paedophiles and journos who cross the pages are as sharply drawn as figures in Wilson’s early comic fiction. Only in her 70s, when she developed dementia and he rushed up to Oxford several times a week to check on her, did his anger soften.

Had he been less “bloody wet”, he might not have married her and become a father of two by the age of 24.Good-humoured, unpretentious and a bit eccentric, it's more like having a well-read friend than a subscription to a literary review. To become a subscriber to Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader’s Quarterly Magazine, please visit our subscriptions page. N. Wilson is nothing short of a genius, a searing journalist, a prolific biographer, a historian and a novelist.

His memoir has many stories to tell: about Oxford, Grub Street, meetings with royals, tweed suits, Tolkien-olatry, religious muddle (as “a practising Anglican with periodic waves of Doubt or Roman fever”), travels to Israel and Russia, anorexia (his own and his mother’s), social drinking “on a positively Slavic scale”, near misses at becoming a painter or priest, and a career as a novelist, biographer and literary editor. As for joie de vivre, she had, her son reports, “a greater capacity than anyone I ever met to squeeze discontent from the happiest of circumstances”.

Looking back on the young AN – “so thrustingly ambitious, so full of himself, so unfaithful, not only to his wife but to his own better nature” – he’s bemused and ashamed, as if watching AN Other. We meet his father, the Managing Director of Wedgwood, the grotesque teachers at his first boarding school, and the dons of Oxford – one of whom, at the age of just 20, he married, Katherine Duncan-Jones, the renowned Shakespearean scholar. But as Wilson explores what it means to live “untogether” with someone, his tone is affectionate and forgiving.

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