Discovering Clive James – 40 years on.

I find it heartening to find that readers who are only now discovering the delights of reading Clive James are getting pretty much the same buzz from the man’s work that I did when I first discovered it over forty years ago.

This piece- which appeared in The New York Times just four days ago – could well be a summary  of how I was responding to James when I first encountered his work in the early 70s.

In a small bed-and-breakfast in Mexico, I found a copy of “Unreliable Memoirs” — the autobiography of the Australian critic, poet and novelist Clive James. I’d never heard of James before, but this battered, swollen, salt-stained, absolutely enchanting paperback sent me home with an assignment: to read everything he’d ever written. As it turned out, this was a huge task (it consumed pretty much all of 2008), especially considering that James’s writings include the great tome “Cultural Amnesia,” the reading of which is something like getting a master’s degree in 20th-century intellectual history. Elizabeth_Gilbert

 

I should say that the book which got me really excited was not Unreliable-Memoirs – it’d not been written yet – but a first edition of  The Metropolitan Critic which I borrowed so often from my local library that I lived in fear that it might discover my serial borrowing and penalise me for it.

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