LONGLISTED FOR THE SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE 2014
‘A symphonic poem about postwar England and Englishness … A masterpiece’ Financial Times
The 1950s were not grey. In Jonathan Meades’s detailed, petit-point memoir they are luridly polychromatic. They were peopled by embittered grotesques, bogus majors, vicious spinsters, reckless bohos, pompous boors, drunks, suicides. Death went dogging everywhere. Salisbury had two industries: God and the Cold War. For the child, delight is to be found everywhere – in the intense observation of adult frailties, in landscapes and prepubescent sex, in calligraphy and in rivers.
This memoir is an engrossing portrait of a disappeared provincial England, a time and place unpeeled with gruesome relish.
Reviews of An Encyclopaedia of Myself
- ‘By far the best picture of the 1950s I have read’ George Walden, The Times
- ‘A sulphurously brilliant alphabetical stroll through the seamier byways of the author’s youth in post-war Salisbury’ Jane Shilling, Evening Standard, Books of the Year
- ‘A radiant account of Britain getting itself together’ Kathryn Hughes, BBC Radio 4, Books of the Year
- ‘An Encyclopaedia of Myself is a corrective – an anti-misery memoir’ Stuart Jeffries. Guardian
- ‘Meades vividly conjures a vanished world of Cracker Barrel cheese adverts, Aertex shirts and ‘Johnny Remember Me’ on the airwaves … He is a very great prose stylist, with a dandy’s delight in the sound and feel of words, and we are lucky to have him.’ Ian Thomson, Spectator