UNRELIABLE MEMOIRS book cover   Unreliable Memoirs
Clive James

"Do not read this book in public. You will risk severe internal injuries for trying to suppress your laughter...What's worse, you can't put it down once started. Its addictive powers stun all normal decent resistance within seconds. Not to be missed." - Sunday Times
"All that really needs to be said to recommended Unreliable Memoirs is that he writes exactly as he talks, which is all his millions of fans could wish" - Valerie Grove, Evening Standard
"Enormously funny...well up to best James standard. Buy it" - Cosmopolitan
"Of James's jokes it is hard to find anything adequate to say. They are so funny that you had better not read the book on a train, unless you are unselfconscious about shrieking and snorting in public. They are vivid, cumulative and full of surprises" Observer
"His public's fun will consist of picturing their favourite wit and pundit, reduced in imagination to short-trouser size, wrestling with snakes and aunties and mutual-masturbators in the bush-bordering suburbs of post-war Sydney. These fancies are the more delicious for being called up in the familiar two-fisted prose. The old boy may be forty, but he times a punch-line disgustingly well" - Russell Davies, Listener
"The eighties could have made no better start than in the explosion of Unreliable Memoirs...Totally Clive James, and to anyone who cares what great literary humour is, and ought to be, the very name is recommendation enough" - Alan Coren, Good Book Guide

First Paragraph from the Preface

Most first novels are disguised autobiographies. This autobiography is a disguised novel. On the periphery, names and attributes of real people have been changed and shuffled so as to render identification impossible. Nearer the centre, important characters have been run through the scrambler or else left out completely. So really the whole affair is a figment got up to sound like truth. All you can be sure of is one thing: careful as I have been to spare other people's feelings, I have been even more careful not to spare my own. Up, that is, of course, to a point.

Sick of being a prisoner of my childhood, I want to put it behind me. To do that, I have to remember what it was like. I hope I can dredge it all up again without sounding too pompous. Solemnity, I am well aware, is not my best vein. Yet it can't be denied that books like this are written to satisfy a confessional urge; that the main-spring of a confessional urge is guilt; and that somewhere underneath the guilt there must be a crime. In my case I suspect there are a thousand crimes, which until now I have mainly been successful in not recollecting. Rilke used to say that no poet would mind going to gaol, since he would at least have time to explore the treasure house of his memory. In many respects Rilke was a prick.

From the Picador paperback edition, 1981.

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Last modified: January 2, 2002.