Claiming to come from a family of performers rather than achievers, Terry Eagletons outstanding debut memoir, The Gatekeeper
, sees him succeed on both scores as he preaches with characteristic, gleeful irreverence from the back pew. Opening with a 10-year-old Eagleton as altar server at a convent chapel in Salford, holding the door for parents leaving their novice daughters forever to God, the narrative closes with delicate resonance on the news of his fathers death while awaiting an interview at Cambridge University. Crammed in between is a glut of typically arch observations on an eclectic variety of subjects by a man once described by Prince Charles as "that dreadful Terry Eagleton". Grandson of Irish-Catholic immigrants to Salford, both his ethnic origin and religious background inform much of his early life, though he comes into his own, inevitably, when he joins the braying classes at Cambridge. The brattish dons who outraged him are named and shamed with delicious frankness, as is the archetypal young fogey with his "outsized cranium and shrivelled heart". The bile is invariably mollified with self-deprecating admissions, such as of his own misguidedly altruistic stint as the Kim Philby of Cambridge Meals on Wheels, as well as eloquent analyses of the figures who helped form his beliefs and passions: men like his supervisor, Dr Greenway, who came to fulfil something of a paternal role for him, Wittgenstein, Brecht, and most intriguingly Wilde, to whom Eagleton has returned constantly in his writings.
A Wildean Marxist, perhaps, but the artist formerly known to the Prince remains also a witty and provocative thinker, unafraid to scale the ivory towers and Ivy League, yet unstinting with enthusiastic praise when due. Always the most earthily intellectual of his radical generation when discussing literature and culture, in writing of Catholics and revolutionaries, convents and colleges, he reaffirms his status as one of Britains finest writers, the gatekeeper who became a master literary poacher.--David Vincent
About the Author
Leading literary theorist and critic. His CRITICAL THEORY has sold 3/4 million copies throughout the world; THE TRUTH ABOUT THE IRISH was a bestseller in Ireland in 1999. Described by Prince Charles as "that dreadful Terry Eagleton".