The unexpected professor: an Oxford life in books

The unexpected professor an Oxford life in books Best known for his provocative take on cultural issues in The Intellectuals and the Masses and What Good Are the Arts John Carey describes in this warm and funny memoir the events that formed him an

  • Title: The unexpected professor: an Oxford life in books
  • Author: John Carey
  • ISBN: 9780571310937
  • Page: 110
  • Format: Paperback
  • Best known for his provocative take on cultural issues in The Intellectuals and the Masses and What Good Are the Arts , John Carey describes in this warm and funny memoir the events that formed him an escape from the London blitz to an idyllic rural village, army service in Egypt, an open scholarship to Oxford and an academic career that saw him elected, age 40, to OxforBest known for his provocative take on cultural issues in The Intellectuals and the Masses and What Good Are the Arts , John Carey describes in this warm and funny memoir the events that formed him an escape from the London blitz to an idyllic rural village, army service in Egypt, an open scholarship to Oxford and an academic career that saw him elected, age 40, to Oxford s oldest English Literature professorship.He frankly portrays the snobberies and rituals of 1950s Oxford, but also his inspiring meetings with writers and poets Auden, Graves, Larkin, Heaney and his forty year stint as a lead book reviewer for the Sunday Times.This is a book about the joys of reading in effect, an informal introduction to the great works of English literature But it is also about war and family, and how an unexpected background can give you the insight and the courage to say the unexpected thing.

    One thought on “The unexpected professor: an Oxford life in books”

    1. John Carey is a respected academic, chief book reviewer for the Sunday Times for forty years, a critic, a commentator and an author. His works have included biographies and his controversial books, “The Intellectuals and the Masses” and “What Good are the Arts?” This, however, is something different – a warm, funny and enjoyable autobiography- taking our narrator from his early childhood in Barnes in the 1930’s to the present. It is the memoir not only of a life, but also of Carey’ [...]

    2. (Nearly 4.5) This has remarkable similarities to David Lodge’s Quite a Good Time to Be Born; both are straightforward chronological autobiographies of working-class, bookish lads who were born in London in 1935, evacuated from the capital during the War, and went on to do military service and embark on a perhaps unlikely academic career alongside their own writing projects. Carey’s is the more interesting of the two books for bibliophile readers unfamiliar with the subject’s work, while Lo [...]

    3. "So in the End, Why Read? There are as many answers to that question as there are readers. My answer is that reading opens your mind to alternative ways of thinking and feeling. Book-burners try to destroy ideas that differ from their own. Reading does the opposite. It encourags doubt." This book is a the memoir of John Carey and his career as an English professor at a college in Oxford. He discusses the books that meant a lot to him as they appear in his life. He also gives insight into the ext [...]

    4. I remember a conversation with a friend, about fifteen years ago. We'd just seen the Lindsay Anderson film If. and were talking about the bits we'd liked best. I said that I'd liked the weird bits the most. He said, 'Yeah - the bits in black and white, all the surreal stuff?' I looked a little puzzled, and gave my answer. It was a list of all the day-to-day things that happen in a public school, which its inhabitants clearly seemed to think were ordinary. Ever since I've had an enduring curiosit [...]

    5. What a wonderful, enthralling book, especially when he's writing about authors he loves (I was so pleased he rated George Orwell so highly, I agree with him that his early novels are underrated and his essays are second to none.) I was always pleased when John Carey appeared on Newsnight Review as he always talked sense and cut through all the rubbish and hot air, as this book does. Also he seems like a very nice man.

    6. I absolutely loved John’s writing style. John lives in Barnes in London and I’ve been there a few times so next time I go I will definitely try to look him up! The book was a pseudo biography of John seen through some of the books that massively influenced him. He has to be one of the most underrated writers I have read recently. I loved his journey though university and how he started teaching and how he became a recognised professor. His knowledge and breadth of learning is incredible. Her [...]

    7. The Unexpected Professor John Carey I knew of John Carey through his meticulous translation of John Milton’s De Doctrina Christiana. I also knew of several of his popular books on history and literature and that he had been a Booker judge. This autobiography tells us much about his charmed life from the time he went to Oxford through his brilliant career in academia and as a reviewer.My favorite part was about his bee keeping which seems to keep his ego in check. God knows nothing else does. H [...]

    8. I enjoyed reading Oxford Professor Carey's account of his academic career and his life in reading. He has certainly done more reading than most and shares with his readers some of his likes and dislikes about books he has read and many he has reviewed or taught. You will come away with new titles you will want to delve into. He reads not just literature but biography, autobiography, poetry, science, and history. He provides insight into what it is like to be an Oxford Don and reside in such a st [...]

    9. Here is a "life in books" in the old British style, but surprisingly written in 2014. It does have a lot of unique character: the author is an old-fashioned Oxford snob, who made his name by simultaneously revitalizing the Oxford tradition of integral scholarship in the classics, and writing a work of literary criticism that was "controversial" for opposing snobbery, but is now taught in schools. This mini-biography in itself contains both the high and low notes of the book. If I myself were Bri [...]

    10. John Carey, respected academic, writer and reviewer, here looks back over a life in books, the importance they have had for him as man and professor, and how they have shaped his career and destiny. The first part of the book is pretty much straight autobiography, but once he gets to Oxford, where he spent his whole working life, the more the book becomes a series of mini-lectures on the writers that he has loved and studied. Overall, this is an entertaining and engaging memoir, and I enjoyed th [...]

    11. Extracts (view spoiler)[Talking about his book 'What Good Are the Arts?'I did a lot of reading in aesthetics, anthropology, psychology and education theory, looking for answers to two questions: 'What is a work of art?' and 'Is there any evidence that exposure to works of art makes you a better person?' I thought at first that the answers to these questions would be easy. I was pretty sure, for example, that Hamlet was a work of art and most pop music wasn't, and as I'd spent much of my life rea [...]

    12. John Carey’s memoir is quite a delightful account of a life of the mind: how it came to be fashioned, built, and enjoyed. I loved his accounts of boyhood, and his mental grappling with where he came from to Oxford. This move, from working class Britain to the rarefied elite of the most well known educational institution on Earth, gives rise to a tension that he explores beautifully, both here, and as he points out, in his earlier book The Intellectuals and the Masses, which I hope to read too. [...]

    13. John Carey is a retired professor of English literature, author and book reviewer for The Sunday Times in England. This autobiography details how a boy born into pre-war London became one of Britain’s foremost literary critics.Carey was, by his admission, a fairly average and disinterested student until he attended East Sheen Boys’ Grammar School where he was lucky enough to have inspired and inspiring teachers who introduced him to Latin, Greek and English Literature. After obtaining a scho [...]

    14. as the title tells you, this is by an Oxford academic. He was asked to write his memoirs and did so by concentrating on his reading life; he was teaching, editing and critiquing English literature after all. This was my lunch time read for the 6 weeks or so of the last Springwood Library closure and I savoured every moment. He is an interesting man, in Oxford with a lot of the greats of 20th Century – Tolkien, CS Lewis, WH Auden, Philip Larkin and many more.H.C

    15. From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:Academic and reviewer John Carey looks back on a life in and around books

    16. He led an interesting life and this autobiography included some good book recommendations. Skipped many of the quotes from other books and poems though!

    17. The last chapter is delightful; best at discussing Donne; too much self-congratulation, posing, and score-settling.

    18. Half way through The Unlikely Professor I was deciding which friends and relations I would give copies to. It was such an enjoyable read: there was Carey's wartime childhood in Barnes; some hilarious stories of army service in Egypt; the eccentricities of Oxford in the fifties and sixties; and Carey's pithy judgements on English literature. Plus a little gentle romance, in the ditching of his childhood sweetheart for a fellow undergrad glimpsed in profile during an Oxford lecture.I had bought th [...]

    19. For those who like to read, who better to read about than the man who has the top reading job: Professor of Reading at Oxford University. This sounds like the perfect job for a bibliophile but having to work at something you do for pleasure must take some of the gloss and enjoyment out of "having your nose stuck in a book" as my wife puts it so eloquently when she'd rather I converse with her. John Carey's account of his upbringing in wartime London, evacuation to Nottingham, spells at universit [...]

    20. I'd been looking forward to reading this as John Carey is always interesting and wears his considerable talents with a refreshing humility. The book sets out the diverse range of influences on an intellectual who has come to represent the best sort of English academic. Where it shines is in Carey's willingness to make his own judgements on major authors and schools of thought; he doesn't hesitate to tell you the works he enjoyed and why. He also lets you know in no uncertain terms about the lite [...]

    21. After this, every hour not reading a book or thinking about a particular writer or written work seems like an hour sadly gone to waste. Carey's autobiography is a moving account of a life being touched by the wonder of literature, its joys and rewards chiming again and again through the pages, making the heart light and wistful. The reader cannot help but harbour a secret hope for that life to have been one's own, or to have/have had something similar. itles and authors are frequently mentioned, [...]

    22. Curled up on my sofa in mid-winter with the wood-burner blazing under my faux fur throw reading John Carey's memoir of his war-time childhood and journey into a literary life is utter bliss. What did I want from this book? I wanted the fantasy of an Oxford education and the nostalgia of a bygone era and by crikey I got it in spades. I have already read ' The Intellectuals and the Masses ' which may be the only book which quite literally had my jaw dropping throughout and really made me question [...]

    23. John Carey's autobiography is pure pleasure. Every page contains something pleasurable, for those who are that way inclined. Do not go to it for an in-depth act of self-analysis, let alone self-laceration - the book is an amiable and elegantly evocative portrayal of a disciplined, productive and to all appearances happy and well-spent life - of a wartime childhood, National Service and College life - interspersed with considerations of the books that mattered to him. A happy autobiography is a r [...]

    24. Quite a disappointment. I happened to see this in a bookshop just after reading Carey's excellent "What Good Are The Arts?", so was curious what account he'd give of himself.Well, the answer is a slightly dull one. Imho understood. There are enjoyable pages but there is no arc at all. He abandons chronology in the last quarter or so (having followed it entirely till then) in favour of themed chapters. But these are mostly little better than notes on his favourite writers, his own works, etc with [...]

    25. An interesting look at parts of the life of John Carey and a good look at the Oxford system. From : Best known for his provocative take on cultural issues in The Intellectuals and the Masses and What Good Are the Arts?, John Carey describes in this warm and funny memoir the events that formed him - an escape from the London blitz to an idyllic rural village, army service in Egypt, an open scholarship to Oxford and an academic career that saw him elected, age 40, to Oxford's oldest English Litera [...]

    26. This man lived the kind of life I'd love to have lived. Surrounded by books; surrounded by Oxford. Prof. Carey has a reputation as a tough, acerbic book reviewer, but in this sort-of-autobiography, he softens as he talks us through the books that have formed and influenced him, as he describes his life and career. Let there be no doubt though - the books dominate, the anecdotes support. Tennyson? Prof Carey doesn't much care for his work, in particular the later stuff. John Donne? Loves him. Lik [...]

    27. What I loved about this book was the mindset, which is the best of the 'good old days' in that the professor is so controlled, so funny, so strong! Unhappy times is the most he says about a period which must have been sheer misery. It does also show you the sexism, the snobbery, the failings of the old days as well. It's also very interesting, especially in the second half of the book, about authors I'm not tough enough to spend time with: Milton, Donne. Can you believe that Carey has read ALL o [...]

    28. An interesting departure to the normal type of memoir. John Carey (Oxford Don & critic) tells his life story with an emphasis on the books he was reading at the time. He's incredibly well read (he reckons he's written over 1000 book reviews and devoured books as a student & as a Professor) but is prone to show off (he tells us he shared the top first in Oxford the year he graduated when only 9 were awarded) but I'm always interested in people & their reading habits. I have to knock a [...]

    29. this is a pleasant enough read but there's nothing earth shattering here which is probably exactly what Carey is going for, being an academic in a resolutely no nonsense no Frenchness fashion. anti intellectual? he namedrops the aggressively anti intellectual Clive James and Nick Hornby so - maybe. It's a bit uneven - it felt like it shouldve been two books rather than one - one for the books and one for the life. the most blessed bit of prose I remember comes in his description of a book where [...]

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