Books: <i>As Of This Writing</i> / <i>Cultural Cohesion</i> — The <i>Essential</i> Essays, 1968–2002 |
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As Of This Writing / Cultural Cohesion — The Essential Essays, 1968–2002

Hardback, W W Norton & Company
New York and London 2003
ISBN 0-393-05180-3
Paperback, W W Norton & Company
New York and London 2013
ISBN 978-0-393-34636-7
[ Notwithstanding the ten-year hiatus and the change of title, these two editions have identical contents ]
Essays from The Metropolitan Critic, At the Pillars of Hercules, From the Land of Shadows, Snakecharmers in Texas, The Dreaming Swimmer, Even As We Speak and The Meaning of Recognition.
To the memory of Sarah Raphael
Barbarism is not the prehistory of humanity but the faithful shadow that accompanies its every step.
—Alain Finkielkraut, Le mécontemporain

A Note on the Text

Over the years I have made it a practice, which I continue here, of leaving an article virtually untouched when collecting it into a book. Sometimes I was glad to reinsert a sentence or two which I had thought particularly clever and an editor had taken out, probably for that very reason; and occasionally there were simple factual errors which should have been caught at the time. But on the whole it seemed best to leave things unimproved. If you start updating a piece in the light of subsequent developments, the result is a tacit claim to a congenital infallibility of judgement: an attribute which, were one to possess it, would remove the whole point of critical journalism at a blow. Aspiring to permanence only by the measure with which it illuminates the ephemeral, such writing can be pertinent or not, but either way it has to be contingent: if it tries to cut itself free from time and chance, it removes itself from life.

So each piece is marked with its provenance, not as a claim to automatic importance but as a reminder that it was written at a specific moment of modern history by a specific person, who was younger and less wary than the codger carrying the same name now. When the expressed sentiments cry out to be updated, the necessary work is done in a postscript. Some of the postscripts date from 1992, when I reissued my debut book of pieces The Metropolitan Critic, which had been originally published in 1974 and was so full of stylistic excesses that my only choice seemed to be between rewriting it and forgetting it. Conceit ruled out the second course, and a new, sudden and strange access of humility ruled out the first. Hadn’t my young clumsiness been a true testimony, and wouldn’t an airbrushed refurbishment be a false one? Better to admit the absurdities, and say how they had come to be perpetrated. Thus I hit on the scheme of commenting on my own commentary.

More recently, in the year 2001, a “best of” selection called Reliable Essays—drawn from half a dozen separate collections—was published in Britain, and I added more postscripts where they seemed appropriate. Some of them are here, marked with that date. Other postscripts were written especially for this selection, the initiative for which I owe Robert Weil, along with the rare combination of enthusiasm and selectivity he brought to the task of convincing the author that one or two things might just possibly make their best contribution by being left out, so as not to dim the light of all the coruscating stuff that was demanding to be put in.

Clive James, London 2003


Though it would please their author if the pieces in this book were to be called essays, there is no denying that most of them had their first life as literary journalism. If we take it for granted that a writer is posturing if he calls himself an essayist, just as he would be preening if he called himself a wit, it is partly because the essay had its origins in a low trade whose practitioners awarded distinction to each other only on performance, and never on mere membership. As a form in the English language, the essay had its true beginnings in the London coffee houses, where it depended for its energy on a seeming paradox: contributing to a periodical designed to be thrown away, the essayist composed his piece as if it were meant to be kept. There was always the chance that he might be the only one to keep it, but if he failed in his aim of bringing permanence to ephemerality, he could always congratulate himself on having respected his disrespectable work by devoting his best efforts to it. I hope I can plausibly claim that much—that these pieces are workmanlike—because when I add up the time it took to write them, the sum accounts for a large part of my life.

For almost forty years I have been writing literary journalism in London, and London is probably where I will go on writing it until the pen drops from my fingers. Actually, of course, although I still write my first and second drafts in a notebook, the dropped pen no longer applies as a token of weary death. More likely, when it comes to the last word, I will multi-punch the laptop’s keyboard with my face, my fingers only halfway through the sequence that activates the most sadly beautiful of all modern rubrics, Windows Is Shutting Down. And English grammar are checking out. When the time comes to follow it into oblivion, my exit will probably owe more to old age than to malnutrition. As a slow writer who got slower still the more he had to say, I could never have earned a living from literary journalism alone. It was always amateur night, and I made my eating money by other means, first as a television critic, then as a television performer. There are reasons for thinking that in the field of literary journalism, full professionalism in the economic sense is not necessarily a desirable object. On the other hand, it doesn’t hurt to get paid something, and luckily I always was. But it never added up to a fortune—which raises the question of whether I might not have set out my stall in the wrong town. Shouldn’t I have been in New York? By American standards, London and low wages go together, like London and a malfunctioning subway system. But there is something else that goes with London, too; something vital to the life of the mind, or to my mind at any rate. London isn’t in America.

America is magnetic in its power, drawing all the world’s activities towards it for their validation, with the possible exception of football with a round ball; and even then, Brazil’s great Edison Arantes do Nascimento, later known as Pele, probably counted it as one of the highlights of his life when he showed President Ford how to bounce the ball on his foot, and President Ford showed him how not to. Good foreign movies are drawn towards Los Angeles, where they are remade as bad ones for their only chance at the world market. Japan’s black-belt sushi cooks are drawn towards the restaurants of Aspen, Russia’s most gorgeous young female tennis players towards the sports-babe nurseries of Florida. When the suicide pilots were drawn towards the twin towers of New York, their unerring flight was a confirmation as much as it was a criticism. They were making their mark where the whole planet would see it. To be famous throughout the world, you must first be famous in America. Shakira’s contrapuntally undulating stomach muscles are famous in Latin America, but when they are famous in the real America they will be famous in Iceland. If it hasn’t happened in America, it hasn’t happened. Foreign media personnel, especially if they stem from the Left, are apt to decry this assumption; but they are just as apt, and especially if they stem from the left, to succumb to it when their moment comes. Given the chance, they go for the green card. Should writers do the same?

I know several that have. Even if they forgo the card, each has shifted the powerhouse of his mentality—the centre of his attention—out of London and into New York. They have probably done the right thing. As a world figure, Salman Rushdie feels more at home in the centre of events than he ever did at home—the home which was already his second home, India having been the first. Rushdie, like Nirad Chaudhuri and other subcontinental masters of the English language before him, knows that there is a sense in which the phrase “England made me” is undeniable. But he also knows that when the British government sensibly decided to pay for his protection as the cheapest way of fighting the war which Iran had declared by pronouncing a death sentence on a British resident, the decision was not unanimously approved by his fellow men of letters. Some of them thought he should pick up the tab, and among those there were a vocal few who clearly believed that it would be no bad thing if he paid for his fame with his life. In America, he thought, nobody who mattered would speak that way. John Lennon no doubt thought the same, and had not been entirely wrong: the man who killed him did not matter except for a moment. So Rushdie went to the centre of the magnetic field.

So did Martin Amis, when he declared that Britain no longer leads the world in anything, except in decline. For those of us who stick with Britain, or at any rate are stuck with it, this might have seemed a large statement, but only a churl could blame him for making it. Some of the British journalism written to spite his success has to be read to be believed. In most cases it is written by people who would like to be him: you can tell by the way they ape his epithets without possessing the talent to ape an ape. In London he is besieged by carping graduates in media studies—mad on America even when they are mad against it—who measure his achievement only in terms of money and success: their key concepts of value sound like the titles he gives his novels. In New York he can at least meet that kind of materialism at first hand. If the Moronic Inferno is your adversary, you might as well go up against it in the main furnace, rather than in some subsidiary steam-room rattling with rusty pipes. The main furnace powers the magnet. For Christopher Hitchens, the adversary was the capitalist conspiracy against the wretched of the earth. Somewhere around the time that Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer and the people danced in the streets instead of greasing the wheels of the tumbril, Hitchens decided that Britain was the wrong place to fight the battle. To the dismay of his friends, but with their heartfelt understanding, Hitchens subtracted his brilliance from London and took it to America, there to beard the adversary in his den. When the planes hit the towers, Hitchens bravely faced the unsettling fact that some of the wretched of the earth might be adversaries too, but there is no sign that he has wavered in his choice of platform, and every sign that his platform revels in its choice of him. With a neigh of pleasure, America has taken Hitchens over as its licensed horsefly. When Dwight Macdonald assailed America’s conduct of World War II, he had to do it in magazines of small circulation, usually under his own editorship. When Hitchens calls for the indictment of Henry Kissinger as a war criminal, he can do it in Vanity Fair: angelically phrased invective on double-coated art paper, closely supported by radiant images of Gwyneth Paltrow. Even at the heart of the magnetic field, his wit, instead of being flattened, dances for the delight of all, with the possible exception of Kissinger. For Hitchens, as for Rushdie and Amis, the centre of the attraction is the heart of the action.

There is only one disadvantage I can think of, but I have thought of it often, and in the long term I have staked my life on it. The centre of the magnetic field is the wrong place to see the distortions it creates. This might not matter for novelists like Rushdie and Amis, or for a globe-girdling political commentator like Hitchens, but for a literary journalist it should be a consideration, because literary journalism is weakened when allied to power, which breeds power within itself, and thus reinforces specialization. In New York, one woman writing for the New York Times can decide the commercial fate of a novel. She exercises her power with independence and integrity, but it is an awful lot of power to have. In London nobody ever had it, not even Cyril Connolly when he was reviewing for the Sunday Times every week. The master of writing a review you cared about of a book he scarcely cared about at all, he had influence but not power, and there is a difference. In New York, prominent members of the Fourth Estate behave as if they were part of the government of the country, encouraged in that belief by the publications they write for. The publications behave like journals of record. I don’t know what happens at Hustler, but at any other American paper or magazine of which I have knowledge, the contributor is likely to find himself edited as if he speaks for the publication before he speaks for himself.

In London, none of this happens. There is editing, but it is done by agreement, and to help you to sound more like yourself, not less. Otherwise there is little intervention, even in fact checking. I don’t deny that a light hand in that department can leave a writer feeling lonely. Unless the editor knows the difference, if you attribute the Goldberg Variations to Beethoven instead of Bach the mistake will go straight into print, to make you a laughing stock for a month. More seriously, it would be very difficult in London to pull off a triumph like Nicholson Baker’s initial New Yorker article about the junking of library cards (the article served as the precursor for his marvellous book Double Fold, in which the world’s great libraries emerge as remorseless engines for destroying books in the name of their preservation) because no London publication has the staff whose busy surveillance would automatically provide a free source of additional research. Most of the London editors work on the assumption that if a blunder is committed, it will be pointed out in the letters column. (It’s the main reason that the letters columns of the London publications are so much more informative than the equivalent forums in New York, where a typical letter either lauds the “insightful” richness of some piece in the previous issue or damns it to hell.) And as for the style, the piece is much more likely to go into the paper pretty much as written, with the writer’s allusions left unflagged and all his quirks intact. The late Anthony Burgess got so used to this that when he contributed to American magazines, and found an American editor calling him to order on the transatlantic telephone, Burgess would bark, “Just print it.” More often than not, the editor just didn’t. Even though the conversation was in English, contributor and editor were speaking two different languages. Burgess thought his manuscript was the finished product. His American editor thought it was only the raw material.

Admittedly, London publications can overdo their respect for individuality. In recent years, with the collapse of the Left, the New Statesman has yielded its position of the weekly “everybody reads” to the Spectator. Politically, the Spectator is chiefly concerned with restoring credibility to the Conservative Party, a victim of the collapse of the Right. Since the only politics that matter are now in the centre, anybody can write for the Spectator with a clear conscience; but it can be disturbing, when you send the magazine your latest poem, to contemplate the possibility that it might make its appearance framed by the chill prose of Diana Mosley. Nevertheless, the tolerance for a wide range of political affiliation is a good thing for literary journalism. The conversational tone can become sibilant and even waspish, but there are not really any separate tables. In London, the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books could never go to war against each other as the New York Review of Books and Commentary once did. In London, the annual parties thrown by the literary magazines still matter more than any book launch, and to each of those parties everybody comes. There is a sense of community, even when opinions differ. It could be said that this is only because nobody’s opinion is felt to matter very much, but that would not be quite true. The writers have their pride. But they know that they have no power. Prestige is acquired not from position, but from the possession of a personal style.

Ideally, it should be an inclusive style, but there is room for the cranky, the narrow, the wilfully provocative. Room for manoeuvre was a big help when it came to establishing the tradition of providing a supplement and a corrective to the academic study of literature. This tradition is still known under the bewildering title of Grub Street, as if it were a place: but really it is a spirit, and one that has flourished since the time of Johnson and Pope, who were never afraid to chide the scholars. At the beginning of my career in Grub Street I praised Edmund Wilson as the arch example of the Metropolitan Critic, the critic who operates in the vital space between the hack reviewers of the periodicals and the dust contractors of the universities. Looking back on it, I can see now that I was seeking an American endorsement for something that Britain had always had. Nowadays it has more of it than ever, and largely because no American endorsement is needed, even if it might be wanted. The London literary journalists might dream of an American stipend, but they are lucky not to have it, because the price is high. The price of achieving prominence as a literary journalist in America is to play an enforced role as an arbiter of success, and the price of not achieving it is to be marginalized. In America, the excellent literary essays of Howard Nemerov are collected in a book published by the University of Missouri Press, a solitary copy of which I lately happened on in a Bloomsbury remainder shop. Some of the essays appeared in the Sewanee Review. In Britain, all of them would have appeared in periodicals available to the general reader; I would have seen them years ago, and perhaps drawn upon their opinions to modify mine. The Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis would have had a different audience, and I would have been glad to be part of it.

To write in London is a better way to be marginalized. One might not be a Distinguished Professor, but one occupies a more advantageous margin. Placed at the perimeter, one can see in, and can comment more surely on what comes out, and on how far it comes: the field of attraction. As of this writing, there is concern in London about the proposal to accept American sponsorship of the Booker Prize, with the likely corollary of opening the competition to American novels. The question is thought to turn on whether or not this prospective Americanization will leave the way open for non-American novelists in English to be blown off the court as if by a Dream Team of American basketballers: seven-foot-tall All-Stars wearing Air Jordans. Roth! Bellow! Donna Tartt! Forget about it! But London, and not New York, is the best place in which to realize that the Booker Prize was Americanized from the jump. The Booker Prize is a marketing tool. And the market is part of the magnet.

Some subjects have no market value. They only have value. Literary journalism is one of them. The demand for it will never increase. Nobody who practises it will get rich. When Hollywood makes the movie about Edmund Wilson’s passion for Edna St. Vincent Millay, it could well mean Oscars for Ben Affleck and Kirsten Dunst, but the box office returns will come too late to help Wilson with his tax problem. Literary journalism is a branch of humanism, and humanism is not utilitarian: it must be pursued for its own sake. In America this is a hard principle to stick to, but there are many Americans who are glad to be reminded it exists, because they know that America is not the whole world, and would be impoverished if it were. By that reckoning, the best way to serve America is to stay out if it, and send in messages along the lines of magnetic force. They can be messages of admonition, or messages of appreciation, or both. But unless some of us stay away from the magnet, the messages cannot be sent.

Cultural Cohesion — Introduction to the paperback edition

Under the title As of This Writing, this anthology of my work as an essayist was first published in 2003 and attracted a certain amount of attention from the American critics. Four years later another book, Cultural Amnesia, attracted much more attention from those same critics and also won a following among the public. Eventually it went to a paperback edition, which continues to do gratifyingly well: enough for my publishers to make it clear that if I wanted to write a sequel they might put it into print. I thought of calling the sequel Cultural Amnesia II: The Quest Goes On, so as to give the flavour of a movie franchise. The cover could feature artwork of myself in a Harrison Ford pose, with a ray-gun, and perhaps an intergalactic female aristocrat clinging to my waist. But over the past two and a half years my health has been too fragile to permit my making a start on it.

Frustrated in my intentions to write a sequel, I was a good while thinking of an alternative means of procedure, namely a prequel. In all but name, As of This Writing had been the predecessor to Cultural Amnesia. With a new title, its continuity with that later book might be made explicit. Over the long period in which I wrote the pieces in this volume, I was working towards, but had not yet reached, the conclusion that Cultural Amnesia would depend on: the conclusion, that is, that a culture is not a coherent whole, but a multiform and expanding mass of creative activities held together by lines of connection that can be described only on the understanding that the description must be incomplete.

Earlier on, between the years 1968 and 2002—the working years covered by this volume—I had proceeded on the assumption that the culture I had been born into, and which I had set out to operate within as a cultural critic, was all of a piece. There was poetry and there was prose, and there were high and low versions of each. Things like painting and music came at various levels of intensity: levels which could safely be identified as either worthy or trivial. As the reader will soon see, I had doubts myself about the self-containment of these categories. To take an extreme example, I was already wondering whether the creations of Judith Krantz might not be more alive than half of the putatively serious novels I was reading. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, she was a big name among popular novelists: her books sold in millions. With Princess Daisy she hadn’t written Tess of the d’Urbervilles, but she had raised the question of whether dullness should be put up with. My essay about her, which the reader will find here under the title of “A Blizzard of Tiny Kisses,” made it all the way to the Oxford Book of Essays. I found it hard to convince myself that I could have got there without her.

To put it briefly, I already knew that things were more complicated than I had thought. But for a long while they were complicated enough. There was so much first-rate stuff to be praised. In poetry, Philip Larkin published important new poems during my time as a critic. (I actually reviewed his collection High Windows when it came out.) In prose, the whole of George Orwell was reissued in one go. Critics could occupy their time impeccably by dealing with nothing except books written in English. But finally I noticed, from my own behaviour, that paying attention to Solzhenitsyn and to Primo Levi meant that there was a larger and less harmonious cultural world. The forces of disintegration that those two great writers had helped to define were part of our culture too, or at any rate their consequences were. Cultural stability was an illusion. It was coming apart all the time. It was like the universe: its edges all fled away from you no matter where you stood.

But this chilling realization was for a later volume. In the volume before you now, confidence reigns. The critic thinks that he knows exactly what he is doing, and has a wonderful time doing it. As I read the text again, I find that I inadvertently wrote a happy book. Even when I tell John le Carré to stop being so pompous, I sound just as intent on having fun as on correcting his taste. (He thought I was conducting a vendetta, but that reaction was an example, I thought, of the very pomposity I was talking about.) I don’t say that the book comes from a more innocent era. But it does come from a more innocent writer. Once, I thought that a culture could stave off the world’s evil. Now I think that a culture must take continual account of the irrationality that would like to destroy it. I hope my later view is the more mature, but perhaps I have just grown old.

Clive James, Cambridge 2013

Jacket Blurb (As Of This Writing)

A cultural education in one brilliant volume, As of This Writing—whether examining the works of Seamus Heaney or George Orwell, Raymond Chandler or Shakespeare—recalls the great literary criticism of a bygone age.

It is impossible not to be impressed by the remarkable range and erudition of the irrepressible, intellectually voracious, Australian-born critic Clive James. As of This Writing is James’s most ambitious and expansive work to date, a book that features forty-nine pen-etrating essays on poetry, film, fiction, and criti-cism, presenting the most comprehensive view of his writings between 1968 and 2002.

In the tradition of Edmund Wilson—himself the subject of the author’s most famous early work, included here—James has throughout his career sought to be a “Metropolitan Critic,” to “operate in the vital space between the hack reviewers of the periodicals and the dust con-tractors of the universities.” Rather than shun-ning popular tastes, James has sought to mold them. Whether in the pages of The New Yorker, the Times Literary Supplement, or the New York Review of Books, James has written as lucidly and intelligently about daytime television, Marilyn Monroe, and lurid romance novels (see “A Blizzard of Tiny Kisses”) as about poetry, fiction, history, and philosophy. Moreover, James is a brilliant stylist, so perceptive (and trenchantly funny) that he often renders the twisted cultural terrain of the twentieth century far more accessible than it is generally portrayed elsewhere. Whether commenting on poets like Seamus Heaney and Randall Jarrell, novelists like D. H. Lawrence and James Agee, or filmmakers like Fellini and Bogdanovich, James delights his readers with a wide-ranging energy and critical aplomb, not to mention a literary education that few can rival.

Separated into four sections—“Poetry,” “Fiction and Literature,” “Culture and Criticism,” and “Visual Images”—As of This Writing is the best introduction to James’s massive body of work, a book that will give the intrepid reader a thorough cultural education in one volume. Spanning the entire range of his career, it includes, with additional notes by the author, classic essays like “Nabokov’s Grand Folly” and “On Auden’s Death” as well as recent pieces such as “Les Murray’s Master Spirits” and “Primo Levi’s Last Will and Testament.” This is the definitive col-lection of writings by one of the greatest literary critics of our age.

Clive James is the author of more than twenty books of criticism, autobiography, and travel writing. His essays have appeared in The New Yorker, the Times Literary Supplement, and the New York Review of Books, among others. He lives in London.

“Mr James’s prolific, wide-ranging criticism, a fat, career-spanning collection ... represents only one face of a remarkably protean public personality.”
A. O. Scott, New York Times

“[Clive James’s] outstanding talent is as a cicerone, guiding the ignorant traveler with patience, knowledge, and wit round some favorite literary edifice and commu-nicating his own admiration of it to the goggling and fascinated visitor.”
Times Literary Supplement

“Clive James is in the tradition of Hazlitt, Bagehot, and Edmund Wilson, with a gusto to succeed theirs.”
John Bayley

“Clive James is the funniest man we have.”
Anthony Burgess

“The timelessness, acuity, and humanism of James’ criticism is everywhere evident in this scintillating collection.”
Donna Seaman, Booklist

“James’s prose is ... comic, inventive, above all, energetic.”
New York Times Book Review

“Clive James is a brilliant bunch of guys.”
The New Yorker

“He [James] writes like a prophet and he can satirize folly in high places with a touch as elegant as Oscar Wilde.”
The Daily Mail

“In a world where knowledge is becoming more fragmentary and specialized every day, Clive James can write about the high, the middle and the low alike with astonishing facility and erudition.”
Times Literary Supplement

About the Author (Cultural Cohesion)

Clive James was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1939 and educated at Sydney Technical High School and Sydney University, where he was literary editor of the student newspaper Honi Soit and also directed the annual Union Revue. After a year spent as assistant editor of the magazine page of the Sydney Morning Herald he sailed in late 1961 for England. Three years of a bohemian existence in London were succeeded by his entry into Cambridge University, where he read for a further degree while contributing to all the undergraduate periodicals and rising to the presidency of Footlights.

His prominence in extracurricular activities having attracted the attention of the London literary editors, the byline “Clive James” was soon appearing in the Listener, the New Statesman, the Review and several other periodicals, all of them keen to tap into the erudite verve which had been showing up so unexpectedly in Varsity and the Cambridge Review. Yet the article that made his name was unsigned. At the invitation of Ian Hamilton, who as well as editing the Review was assistant editor of the Times Literary Supplement—which was still holding at the time to its traditional policy of strict anonymity—the new man in town was given several pages of the paper for a long, valedictory article about Edmund Wilson. Called “The Metropolitan Critic” in honour of its subject, the piece aroused widespread speculation as to its authorship: Graham Greene was only one of the many subscribers who wrote to the editor asking for their congratulations to be passed on, and it became a point of honour in the literary world to know the masked man’s real identity.

Embarrassed to find himself graced with the same title he had given his exemplar, Clive James rapidly established himself as one of the most influential metropolitan critics of his generation, but he continued to act on his belief that a cultural commentator could only benefit from being as involved as possible with his subject, and over as wide a range as opportunity allowed. The Sunday newspaper the Observer hired him as a television reviewer in 1972, and for ten years his weekly column was one of the most famous regular features in Fleet Street journalism, setting a style which was later widely copied.

During this period he gradually became a prominent television performer himself, and over the next two decades he wrote and presented countless studio series and specials, as well as pioneering the “Postcard” format of travel programmes, which are still in syndication all over the world. His major series Fame in the Twentieth Century was broadcast in Britain by the BBC, in Australia by the ABC and in the United States by the PBS network.

But despite the temptations and distractions of media celebrity, he always maintained his literary activity as a critic, author, poet and lyricist. In 1974, his satirical verse epic Peregrine Prykke’s Pilgrimage was the talk of literary London, many of whose leading figures were disconcerted by appearing in it, and more disconcerted if they were left out. In the same year, The Metropolitan Critic was merely the first of what would eventually be six separate collections of his articles, and in 1979 his first book of autobiography, Unreliable Memoirs, recounting his upbringing in Australia, was an enormous publishing success, which has by now extended to more than sixty reprintings. It was followed by two other volumes of autobiography, Falling Towards England and May Week Was in June.

In addition there have been four novels, several books of poetry—a complete edition is planned—and a collection of travel writings, Flying Visits. His literary journalism became familiar in the United States through Commentary, the New York Review of Books and The New Yorker. His fourth novel, The Silver Castle, the first book about Bollywood, was published in the United States in 1996.

Collaborating with the singer and musician Pete Atkin, he wrote the lyrics for six commercially released albums in the early 1970s, and the partnership resumed with two more albums after the turn of the millennium, culminating with a hit appearance for their two-man song-show on the Edinburgh Fringe in 2001 and a tour of Britain in 2002. Extended tours of both Britain and Australia are planned for 2003. After helping to found the successful independent television production company Watchmaker, Clive James retired from mainstream television to become chairman of the Internet enterprise Welcome Stranger, for which he now broadcasts in both video and audio on, the first webcasting site of its type. He is currently completing a long study of cultural discontinuity in the twentieth century, under the title of Alone in the Café, and has begun work on a dance operetta based on his passion for the Argentinian tango. In 1992 he was made a member of the Order of Australia, and in 1999 an honorary Doctor of Letters of Sydney University.

[ As the Fates spun out his time, Clive’s “” became and “Alone in the Café
became Cultural Amnesia. The planned tango-themed musical was never completed — Archive Editor ]