THE CRYSTAL BUCKET book cover   The Crystal Bucket
Television criticism from the Observer 1976-79
Clive James

Cover photograph by Peter Williams

Dustjacket synopsis:
"'His contribution to the art and enjoyment of TV criticism over the past ten years has been immense. His work is deeply perceptive, often outrageously funny and always compulsively readable'.

"Thus the judges of the British Press Awards, in naming Clive James Critic of the Year for 1981. The Crystal Bucket offers a further selection of his inimitable 'visions before midnight...'"

"C.J. didn't get where he is today just by being funny. He is humane, liberal and compassionate...What he writes is always pertinent and always witty...We owe him a deep debt of gratitude" - Gavin Ewart, The Listener
"Few critics have a more unerring ear for woolliness and doubletalk or a more scathing and entertaining way of dealing with it" - Lesley Garner, Good Housekeeping
"He is one of the most remarkable figures in British cultural life at the moment: a poet and gifted literary critic who is also genuinely liked by the mass audience" - Michael Mason, London Review of Books
"One of the few columnists who makes you laugh aloud...if there were angels he would be on their side: and that would certainly include Charlie's angels" - Melvyn Bragg, Sunday Times

Hitler's faults
Mutiny in the Furnace Room
The weld this week
The truly strong man
Patrick's invisible lute
Over the tarp
Supermind, Superbody
Rings a bell
Wini und Wolf
Moses hits the dirt
Odour situation
The Lew Testament
Roots of our time
My daughter Tricia
The red Sandwich
A load of chunk
Women's lab
Bonjour twistesse
Heaven help we
A boy forever
Chastitity pants
Olde rubbish
Melly's golden stream
Good hang
Tragic finish
Perosnal freedom
Not by any means full
Chewing the sporran
Smething of ourselves
Unbearable suffrage
Carry on creating
Green beef
Manganese noodles
Wuthering depths
Wilde and Whistler
Voyage of the Beagle
Blood and guts
Dr Beckman's apparatus
Jean-Paul Kean
Island of the stud tortoises
The flying feet of Frankie Foo
Underneath her wimple
Freezing fog situation
Life on earth
Exploring the medium
No credit for Puccini
You gonna know!
That's right, yeah
Busy old night
Zorba the Hun
While there's Hope
Not the chief
Carpenter the Rain King
Immaculate length of Borg
Baebius lives!
I'm a star!
Black dog
Negative, captain
Really terrible
Maging a moggery
Mother of Shirley Williams
Miss World and Mrs Mao
Out to lernch

First Paragraph from the Introduction

This book continues the story which I started to tell in Visions Before Midnight, a volume selected from my Observer television column between the years 1972 and 1976. In this second instalment I try to cover the years 1976-1979, but once again the story is patchy. There is no hope of telling it all, or even of outlining all the reasons why this should be so. Enough to say that British televsion remains too various to be fully absorbed by one mind, even when that mind is well accustomed to being bombarded by patterns of light and sound for the better part of every day. All politico-sociological or sociologico-political surveys of British televsion can safely be dismissed as moonshine. In America there might be some chance of summing up what the networks crank out, but in Britain your chance to draw fully abreast of what the BBC has on offer is when ITV goes on strike, and vice versa. Far from being a conspiracy to manipulate the public, British television is an expanding labyrinth which Daedalus has long since forgotten he ever designed.

From the Picador paperback edition, 1982.

The title of the collection comes from the following poem:

And by the happie blisfull way
More peaceful Pilgrims I shall see,
That haue shooke their gownes of clay,
And goe appareld fresh like mee.
Ile bring them first
To slake their thirst,
And then to taste those Nectar suckets
At the cleare wells
Where sweetnes dwells,
Drawne up by Saints in Christall buckets.

Sir Walter Ralegh,
The passionate mans Pilgrimage

This page and its contents are copyright © 2000-02 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: January 2, 2002.