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Mother’s Boy: A Writer’s Beginnings

Mother’s Boy: A Writer’s Beginnings

Author(s): Howard Jacobson

Location(s): Manchester

Genre(s): Autobiography/Memoirs

Era(s): late 20th century

‘A wonderful memoir, written with great linguistic brio. Candid, shrewd and moving – a classic of its kind.’ – William Boyd

Laugh-out-loud glorious and uproarious of course – but don’t let the self-ribbing fool you; this is deep and poignant.’ Simon Schama

Howard Jacobson’s funny, revealing and tender memoir of his path to becoming a writer

It’s my theory that only the unhappy, the uncomfortable, the gauche, the badly put together, aspire to make art. Why would you seek to reshape the world unless you were ill-at-ease in it? And I came out of the womb in every sense the wrong way round.

In Mother’s Boy, Booker-Prize winner Howard Jacobson reveals how he became a writer. It is an exploration of belonging and not-belonging, of being an insider and outsider, both English and Jewish.

Jacobson was forty when his first novel was published. In Mother’s Boy he traces the life that brought him there. Born to a working-class family in 1940s Manchester, the great-grandson of Lithuanian and Russian immigrants, Jacobson was raised by his mother, grandmother and aunt Joyce. His father was a regimental tailor, as well as an upholsterer, a market-stall holder, a taxi driver, a balloonist, and a magician.

Grappling always with his family’s history and his Jewish identity, Jacobson takes us from the growing pains of childhood to studying at Cambridge under F.R. Leavis, and landing in Sydney as a maverick young professor on campus. After his first marriage and the birth of his son, he lived in places as disparate as London, Wolverhampton, Boscastle and Melbourne, and worked many different jobs to make ends meet, from selling handbags on a market stall, to teaching English in schools, universities and sometimes football stadiums, and even helping to run an Australian-inspired restaurant in the middle of Cornwall.

Full of Jacobson’s trademark humour and infused with bittersweet memories of his parents, this is the story of a writer’s beginnings – as well as the twists and turns that life takes – and of learning to understand who you are before you can become the writer you were meant to be.

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