Clive James Watch #15

Reviews of The Blaze of Obscurity: The TV Years

Roland White in "The Sunday Times": "Most television memoirs instinctively take on a chat-show format. Celebrities, dear friends all, are wheeled on to tell their stock anecdotes. The Blaze of Obscurity is more thoughtful about the mechanics and indeed the purpose of television, but James is not above a bit of celebrity work if the context requires it. He spotted Nigella Lawson's potential when everybody else thought she was too posh. He interviewed Leonard Bernstein while the conductor's hand was looking for a route into James's trousers, and he enjoyed several lunches with the Princess of Wales. He is entranced by Jane Fonda and Katharine Hepburn, found Ronald Reagan to be a showbiz trouper, and once changed the set of his show because Pavarotti was too bulky to tackle stairs...As James cannot find it within himself to write a dull paragraph, his book is an entertaining read. But there's no hiding the fact that the material on showbusiness and television has been well worked elsewhere."

Robert Yates in "The Guardian": "As always with James, the temptation is to play the man and not the ball - so willing is he to present a large, vivid target. Someone less inclined to provoke ridicule might not have written, en passant: 'I had been so caught up with learning to read Japanese' or: 'When waiting in the car with my driver, I would read to him from Simenon or Maupassant.' But what's a little ridicule next to James's fabulous appetites, next to his desire to acquire fresh knowledge and his delight in showing off? Besides, what a treat for the driver to have a little Maupassant in his ear while idling...Mostly, he relishes the experience - he has never lacked the conviction, he writes, that he was the 'natural centre of attention'. And he takes great pleasure in being invited to handsome places where there are beautiful women to entertain. Again, ridicule if you will, but he gets the self-tease in first."

Roger Lewis in "The Daily Mail": "Has there ever been a more vivid example of cultural schizophrenia than Clive James? On the one hand, he is mad keen to tell us about his highbrow achievements and credentials...Pitching hard for Elder Statesman in the Republic of Letters status, our author brags that in the grand salons of London, 'at the same table as David Hockney, Philip Roth, Harold Pinter and Sir Isaiah Berlin, it was flattering to be treated like one of the boys'....Let's hope they didn't think the portly James was the wine waiter. But that's what being a VIP celebrity artist is all about, isn't it? Your contacts. 'I made a conscious effort to remember it all,' says James, as if he was Marcel Proust...Unfortunately, he seems to have forgotten everything when it came to writing this book. He doesn't even let us know his own wife's name. Is this discretion, or a simple inability to focus on anything outside his own immediate frame of Humpty Dumpty big-head reference."


"Head and Shoulders Above the Rest" - The achievements of some people stand so tall, a statue in their honour can never match up.

"When Doing Nothing is an Option" - Living in a democracy can be trying, until you think of the alternatives.

"Climate Change - A Story Too Often told the Same Way" - Having one-sided discussions about climate change helps no-one.

"Automate at Your Peril" - Computerised systems may be useful but they can also get things very wrong.

"One Lesson to Teach the Young" - The young are the future, but they must still be reminded of the lessons of the past.


"The Times" published an extract from James's latest volume of his autobiography, The Blaze of Obscurity.


James was interviewed by Andrew Denton for the latter's ABC TV "Elders" program.  You can watch the video of that interview, and read the transcript, here.

James Campbell in "The Guardian".

YouTube now has available an interview with Billy Connolly by Clive James.  It comes in two parts.


James attended the London launch of the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature and had a few things to say about the contents, according to James Delingpole of "The Telegraph".

James's poetry collection, Angels of Elsinore, was shortlisted for the Costa Book Award.

James and the novelist Martin Amis appeared on a Manchester University panel discussion regarding the subject of ageing.  You can download a podcast of that discussion here.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on January 13, 2010 3:19 PM.

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