Clive James is an author, critic, broadcaster and poet. He has written more than 20 books, including his memoir, The Blaze of Obscurity, and a collection of essays, The Revolt of the Pendulum.
By this author
Les Murray’s ‘Taller When Prone’
Merely a planchet waiting to be struck,
The poem shapes up but is not a coin
Until, by craft, and then again by luck,
He fashions clean devices fit to join
A scrupulous design that he would like
To look mint fresh and not like a soft strike …
Scanning the face of a crestfallen wave
He sees his life collapsing to a close,
A foaming comber racing to its grave.
But after that one, there are all of those:
The ranks of the unbroken, the young men
Completely green, queuing to take their turn
The perfectly bad sentence
In writing, to reach the depths of badness, it isn't enough to be banal. One must strive for lower things. Almost five years have gone by since I cut out from a British newspaper the article containing the following passage, and I think I am finally ready …
The velvet shackles of a reputation
In Dr Johnson's little novel Rasselas, the Poet tells the Prince about the psychological requirements of a poetic career. The poet, says the Poet, must "content himself with the slow progress of his name". On the other hand, he should learn to "contemn …
The nymph Calypso
Planning to leave Calypso in the lurch,
Odysseus snuck off to build a ship.
He found the right-shaped boughs of larch or birch
Or spruce, for all I know, from which to strip
The bark, and ... but the details we can skip.
I won't pretend that I've …
Saying famous things
In Hollywood, "The son-in-law also rises" is a remark that was already part of the culture before World War II. Like the original author of "Sic transit Gloria Swanson", the original author of "The son-in-law also rises" has never been tracked down, possibly …
Happiness writes white
Usually attributed to that prolific aphorist Anonymous, the sadly true notion that "Happiness writes white" probably emerged from Tin Pan Alley or Broadway, when somebody finally realised why most of the good love songs were about love lost. The idea …
Windows is shutting down
Windows is shutting down, and grammar are
On their last leg. So what am we to do?
A letter of complaint go just so far,
Proving the only one in step are you.
Better, perhaps, to simply let it goes.
A sentence have to be screwed pretty bad
The continuing insult to the language
In which English-speaking country is the English language falling apart most quickly? Britain. Are things as bad in Australia? I hope not. In Britain, in 2006, the Labour government is still trying to fix the education system, but surely one of the reasons …
“The secret,” said Niki Lauda, “is to win going as slowly as possible.” This remark is sometimes attributed to another and even greater racing driver, Juan Manuel Fangio. Perhaps Niki Lauda was quoting it without acknowledgment. Anyway, I actually …
Show me the horror
Directors, producers and the importance of unsubtlety
The nickname ‘Diamond Jim’ fitted James McClelland the way ‘Big Julie from Chicago’ fitted the gangster in Guys and Dolls who rolled spotless dice, with the difference that Diamond Jim wasn’t acting. He was really like what his nickname said: …
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