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Not Entitled: A Memoir Paperback – June 4, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this enchanting, episodic memoir, Kermode chronicles the unusual course of events that carried him from a parochial childhood on the Isle of Man to international recognition as a literary critic. A modest, at times dolefully confessional raconteur, Kermode elides most details about his marriages and children, focusing instead upon his own perpetual feelings of dislocation and his lack of "entitlement" to cultural and familial attainments. Raised in a world of tenements, gaslights and ancient prejudices, the sensitive Kermode joined the navy at the outset of WWII, serving as clerk to a series of "mad captains" (including two Sisyphian years in Iceland building a naval defense that was never completed). Kermode next drifted into graduate school, later teaching at Reading, Bristol and University College of London, eventually becoming King Edward VII Professor of English at Cambridge, a post he resigned during a much-publicized controversy over post-structuralism during the early 1980s. Kermode also details the flap over his editorship of the cultural journal Encounter, which he left on principle in 1967 when it was revealed to be CIA-funded. And, through a marvelous prism of literary and cultural observations, Kermode, whose most famous book is The Sense of an Ending, affectingly ponders his own sense of mortality.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Kermode, scholar, critic, and teacher of English literature for nearly 50 years, has written a perceptive autobiography that is dry in wit, sharp in detail, but oddly distanced from its subject. The work is thematically divided into three parts: the first section covers Kermode's childhood and youth on the British Isle of Man, a unique but circumscribed world from which he escaped via scholarship to Liverpool University in 1938. After only a few terms, war intervened, and Kermode enlisted in the Royal Navy. The second part, his life with "my mad captains" and others, is by far the best of the book and should be required reading for those who consider war glamorous or heroic. Kermode's academic career, professional life, and thoughts on the intellectual wars over critical methods form a final third. Although the earlier chapters are of general interest, the last part requires more interest in, and knowledge of, politics and personalities in English academia than most American readers may possess. A quirky and beautifully written work; for specialized collections.
-?Shelley Cox, Southern Illinois Univ., Carbondale
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (June 4, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374525927
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374525927
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,750,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sir Frank Kermode has been a prominent figure in the world of literary criticism since the 1960s. He has been King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge and Professor of Poetry at Harvard. He was knighted in 1991.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 15, 1996
Format: Hardcover
Kermode, who introduced the English-speaking world to French post-structuralist theory when he was teaching at the University of London, is far less interested in such effete and rarified (not to say, obtuse!) things than in relating his childhood, youth and early adulthood to the later course his life took. Born on the linguistically isolated island of Mann, his recollections of those early years suggested nothing of the extraordinary literary-critical future that awaited him. His service in the Royal Navy puts to rest the common conviction that anyone who served in that war must be a hero. On the contrary, he considered the whole outing a total waste of time (something that anyone who's served in the military will recogize as fundamentally correct!). A narrow measure of his prodigious critical output may be found in another AMAZON offering of Kermode's: _The Uses of Error_
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Frances Haas on September 30, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was not acquainted with the writing of Frank Kermode but read his obituary in the "Times" Magazine. After learning he had been born on the Isle of Man, yet held a foremost role as a major art critic and writer, I sent for his autobiography.
Because Mr. Kermondy was born on a small, isolated island, I assumed his sense of community would be developed, but his is an odder story than that. He never says so, but his mother was most likely illegitimate, and, so, he never found out any family background on her side of the family. It was "off limits" to ask, and he grew up with only his parents, his father being from Scotland. It is as if Kermody were isolated on an already isolated island. The voice of the book is lonely, but not self-pitying: ironic.
The author's adventures during the Second World War in the British Navy are down-to-earth and unsentimental. The title for the book: "Unentitled" comes from his seaman's experience. When a man went to the bursur's to be paid, he would lay his cap down. If he had received enough demerits that pay period, the bursur would call out, "Unentitled!" meaning the man had no salary at all. All the poor fellow could do, according to the author, was to salute smartly, pivot and leave, or he might just get another demerit.
I felt the author was disillusioned, but he does not easily give out his secrets, but delves into the lives of others. He has a certain impenetrable qualilty, which is not in evidence in his other books.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. Watson on March 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kermode is one of the rare scholar-critics of our time whose analytical brilliance has not obscured from him his own humanity. This memoir, along with--or perhaps heading the list of--his distinguished titles, The Sense of an Ending, The Genesis of Secrecy, Shakespeare's Language, and many more, guarantees his place in the canon of classics chosen by those who read for pleasure.
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By pearl on January 3, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is a fine book.
I laughed out load at the chapter describing Kermode's wartime experiences aboard ship in the Royal Navy.
It is very funny.
He describes his " mad, mad, captains." One broke his legs, one shot himself, another spent all his time drunk, and playing cards. This one was illiterate and got Kermode to write the ship's official letters. He kept calling Kermode 'Cosmo' or 'Comedy.'
" He paid me many ironical or obscene compliments. 'What are you Cosmo, some sort of f****** poofter."
He crashed the ship on an iceberg and as it ws sinking turned to Kermode and said:-
" Well Cosmo, looks like we've f****** had it!"
Kermode was a prominent man of letters, a professor at Cambridge and he has some interesting things to say about the structuralist movement that nearly tore the university apart.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sort of a strange book from a very fine critic and writer. I was interested in t because I am interested in memoir writing. For that, the book was very revealing.
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