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AS of This Writing – Clive James

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May I introduce you to, if you have not known of him already, to Clive James.

A funny man – droll. He’s been a media highlight in Australia and England for a couple of decades now with TV shows on his observations about life and introducing silly news clips. A natural talent.

Writing is his best medium, however. I was just reminded of him when I clicked on my NY Times books review e-mail and saw his name. Brought me back to my childhood years in England when the whole family enjoyed his shows.

This guy is worth checking out. The first name that came to mind when I tried to compare him to somebody for you was Patrick McManus, outdoor columnist, for I think, Town and Country magazine – or at least once was.

But Clive James, now 64 years of age, is not that silly. And he’s definitely an urban presence. Oddly though, if you like Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter you’re pretty sure to like this guy. It’s an Australian thing.

Nature Biologist Lawrence Durrell also comes to mind as a kindred sprit with James. A person who tells compelling, self-deprecating and honest tales of childhood and generalities about homeland.

His newest book, “As of This Writing” is a collection of his best writing about writers. Buy it, and enjoy it – and then give it to someone else who enjoys to read as a truly unexpected treat.

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About temple

Always been a writer, always maintained an interest in politics, how people communicate and fantasy worlds within photography and books. Previously wrote for Blogcritics back in 2005 and interested in exploring the issues and topics I'm interested - the changing landscape of entertainment. all from the POV of a creator first, consumer, second.
  • natalie

    can clive tell me more about his childhood?

  • Just a note; the previous comment was not from me. Welcome, other Natalie.

  • nick

    Lawrence Durrell was not a Nature biologist – his younger brother Gerald Durrel was the naturalist.

  • Ha — thank you Nick. I truly appreciate that. I read Flora and Fauna when I was about 12 and it has always stuck with me. Just not the right author I guess. Now I must go look up what LawrenceDurrell did.

  • My Family and Other Animals was the one I remembered the most about his – Gerald’s family’s vacation in Corfu

  • I wrote this little piece about Clive this evening and, not knowing his email address, I post it here for his pleasure one day.

    After graduating from Sydney University Clive James worked for a time for the Sydney Morning Herald. In January 1962 he took a ship to England where he has lived ever since. “When I got off the ship in Southhampton in that allegedly mild January of 1962,” James reported, “I had nothing to declare at customs except goose pimples under my white nylon drip-dry shirt.”1 Seven months later in August 1962 I, too, did a little travelling, but just to the next town. My pioneering life in the Canadian Baha’i community began when my mother, father and I moved some 10 miles away to Dundas Ontario from our home in Burlington.

    While James “moved purposefully beyond ‘The Valley of the Kangaroos,’ otherwise known as Earls Court, into a bed and breakfast in Swiss Cottage where he thoughtfully practiced the Twist in his room, anticipated poetical masterpieces and worried a little about his wardrobe,”1 I moved into a roomy house behind a large shopping centre in Dundas and spent five hours every late afternoon and evening studying toward my grade 13, my matriculation.

    James attended Cambridge University and received a second degree. After that he has earned his living as a journalist, poet, novelist and reviewer. From 1972 to 1982 he was the respected television critic for The Observer. He has published three volumes of these reviews. In recent years he has appeared in a series of television programs examining modern culture and television. –Ron Price with thanks to Clive James, “Falling Toward England,” Unreliable Memoirs II, Jonathan Cape, 1985.

    You were one of the few
    formidable intellects
    I encountered downunder, Clive,
    an absolutely incredible
    reader and talker,
    made me feel like a beginner,
    even when I was sixty
    and had been reading and talking
    for forty years: the capacity of some it is said
    lies in a thimble and others
    in a gallon measure.

    Such a barrel of laughs and such energy!
    I wish you well in late adulthood, Clive.
    May you go down into sunset years
    with peace and tranquillity
    to allay your fears but if,
    like Dylan Thomas, you prefer
    not to go gentle into that good night,
    if you would prefer to burn, rave
    and rage at the dying of the light,
    may that too be yours in the ample quantities
    you have already enjoyed and,
    with Thomas, if your tears be fierce,
    I pray for you some peace.

    October 5th 2005

  • Wow Ron, that brings this post back from the wayback machine.

    That is a quality comment. Thank you.

    Mr. James didn’t die did he?

  • Two years after the above comment(prose-poem) I watched James again in interview on TV(ABC TV, 6/8/07). And so I post the following-to continue my tribute to a man who is definitely one of the great inspirations in my life–at least as I enter the middle years of this decade of sexuagenarianism–and to think I nearly missed the James phenomenon, caught up as I was initially in his burgeoning humour.
    I watched an interview with Clive James on Monday 6 August on ABC TV(Talking Heads: 6:30-7:00 p.m.) and, although I am not in the same league as James, his words made a lot of sense to me–yet again–a retired teacher, full-time writer-poet and early entrant to the sexuagenarian(sixties) category of the life-span. I have been indebted to James since I discovered his serious side several years ago on that books and writing program I mentioned in a previous post.

    Two things struck me. The first thing was his words about the writing process. They were different ones than I had in my file on James from 1988. But the message was similar:

    The deep, awkward, usually unspoken fact, but no secret, is that artists are motivated mainly by love of what they do. They live to work. Most people work to live.-Ron Price, with thanks to Clive James, Observer Magazine, 28 August 1988.

    The second thing requires me to dedicate the following prose-poem to dear Clive James who admits to being a poor father and husband. I thank him for his humour and honesty–and of course his liberal values:

    I live to work, that’s the accent,
    but I also work to live. I’ve been
    endowed with the artist’s pleasure
    and the pleasure of my work, where
    ideas and words creep out of my head
    and are caught and tortured into some
    kind of shape in a calm coolness, a silent,
    grass-growing mood, wooing combinations
    and inspirations into being by some depth and
    continuity of attention and meditation. Also it
    is a sheer peeling away of the layers of life,
    leaving something thinner, barer, more meagre.
    …written in my last year of full-time employment as a teacher…