Books: The Blaze of Obscurity |
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The Blaze of Obscurity — The TV Years


Introduction17Shanghai Express
1Out of the Frying Pan18Wheels at Speed
2Ferrets to the Rescue19It Would Be An Honour
3White Knuckles of Africa20Where All Roads Lead
4Elephant Walk21Pushing It
5Pause to Regroup22Back to Basics
6Alpine Idyll23Company Store
7The Weekly Stint24First Tango
8Economy of Effort25In this Valley of Dying Stars
9We’ll Always Have Paris26What Becomes of
         the Broken-Hearted?
10Keeping the Balance
11Dealing with Genius27As Time Ran Out
12Destination Tokyo28Late Final Extras
13Pageant Cities29Driven Men
14The House has the Edge30Trumpets at Sunset
15Focus on the Name31Epilogue: The Return of
         the Metropolitan Critic
16Throw to Australia

“Though it always courts tedium to be precise about numbers, in this case the statistics tell a story. The fifth volume of my unreliable memoirs, The Blaze of Obscurity, covering my years in television between 1982 and 2000, had a publication date (October 7, 2009) timed to coincide with my 70th birthday. It would have been a pretty good stratagem for saying “not dead yet” if the book had not been sent to join a full fifty other brand-new showbiz autobiographies released for the Christmas season. So there I was, toe to toe with Alan Titchmarsh, and neck and neck with Katie Price if I was very lucky. In fact the only advantages I had over the latter candidate were (a) I wrote my book myself, and (b) my breasts were real. But with the help, perhaps, of a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week serialisation, my latest offering escaped instant burial, and even attracted some serious reviews, which I proudly append – proudly because, against all likelihood, I actually try to make this apparently frivolous form a vehicle for what little wisdom I might have managed to acquire.”

* * *

Reviews for Clive James's fourth volume of memoirs, North Face of Soho, included several that specifically requested a further volume. Clive James has duly obliged, and here, in all its glory, is Unreliable Memoirs V, otherwise known as The Blaze of Obscurity.

For many people, Clive James will always be a TV presenter first and foremost, and a writer second — this despite the fact that his adventures with the written word took place before, during and after his time on the small screen. Nevertheless, for those who remember clips of Japanese endurance game shows and Egyptian soap operas, Clive James reinventing the news or interviewing Hefner and Hepburn, Polanski and Pavarotti, his ‘Postcards’ from Kenya, Shanghai and Dallas, or Clive James Racing Driver, his rightful place does seem to be right there — on the box, in our homes, and almost one of the family.

However you think of him, though, and whatever you remember him for, The Blaze of Obscurity is perhaps his most brilliant book yet. Part Clive James on TV and part Clive James on TV, it tells the inside sory of his years in television, shows Clive James on top form then and now, and proves — once and for all — that he has a way with words ... whatever the medium.

First published 2009 by Picador.

To the memory of
Richard Drewett

All my clever dealings, he said to himself, have not made me happy. I remain a broken, restless man.
— Stefan Zweig, Ungeduld des Herzens

Fool, of thyself speak well.
Richard II, V, 5