Clive James Watch #3

Reviews of Cultural Amnesia

Ted Burke titles his review "Memoirs of an Amnesiac", which isn't bad. "Memoirs of an Insomniac" might work just as well. "His range is impressive, though some of his views are questionable, given to subjectively defined absolutes, such as his long essay on jazz composer and band leader Duke Ellington; James does an insightful reading of the master's body of work, but goes beyond his kiln expressing his dislike of the modernism that caught up with jazz improvisation, claiming, in effect, that the faster, more bracing innovations of Charlie Parker, Coltrane and Miles Davis destroyed the form. Rather than admit that any vibrant art changes with the younger stalwarts who take up it's practice, James would rather that his beloved idea of jazz, rhythmic, melodic, and danceable, was "dead". This is rather typical of the book, where one enters what they think is a discussion of an intriguing personality only to find that James has a grievance he wants to address, a score to settle. He goes off topic with the topic he selects."

Hans finds one major problem with the book - plus a few minor ones as well: "One huge problem with "Cultural Amnesia"? The typos...I don't think I've ever seen a big serious book with so many of them - seriously, some proofreader at Norton books was hitting the juice during lunchtime, because there's one every other page, which is a problem in a book that specifically criticizes OTHER books for misusing commas and semicolons and the such - (book-kettle calling the book-pot black much?)"


Dwight Garner runs a few quick questions past James on "Paper Cuts": "What are you working on? I'm working on the fifth volume of my memoirs. This volume is provisionally called Prelude to the Aftermath and covers my time in
British mainstream television from 1982-2000, so it will have a star-studded cast in which Luciano Pavarotti, if I may say so, bulks large. I am also finalizing the proofs of my upcoming book of selected poems, Opal Sunset, which will be published in America late this year."

James on Television

Clive James recently appeared on BBC Television's "Question Time" and Neil Skinner was in the audience to report on the filming. He rated James's performance a 9/10: "A typically robust performance from the ever popular Australian writer/broadcaster, a pleasing mix of well made political comment and razor sharp satire from a man of enormous intellect." And a last note from the man himself: "My feeling that I would have been a happier man if I had been a painter and indeed a happier man if I had been a gravedigger - a very useful occupation, in my view, as it was in the view of the gravedigger who met Hamlet, himself a gloomy fellow - that feeling might have something to do with a disposition towards melancholy. From the inside I don't actually feel like a wet weekend. But apparently I strike other people that

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 27, 2008 9:06 AM.

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