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Kevin Cryan
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #40: 30.03.07 at 20:31 »
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Richard King writing in today's issue of  Brisbane Times calls Cultural Amnesia, (now with the more elegant subtitle "notes from the margin of my time") “a book I'll come back to time and again, no doubt further to deface its pages, already disfigured by pencil marks, single, double, and treble, meandering down the margin of such passages as excited my admiration.”  
 
It is obvious that King is a big fan of Clive. He even attempts a Jamsian joke or two.The book is huge, he says, and  “would be unputdownable if it weren't unpickupable.” It would be no great shakes as Jamesian line, but you can see that it’s by a writer who has has Clive’s style in mind. It's the work of an admirer. The problem is that if you set up a conceit such as this, then you have got to carry it through. Otherwise the smart line is just that, and nothing else. King never carries it through. In fact he never again mentions the hugeness of the book being a problem.      
 
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #41: 31.03.07 at 09:48 »
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on 30.03.07 at 20:31, Kevin Cryan wrote:
Richard King writing in today's issue * of  Brisbane Times................................................
 
Kevin Cryan

 
*Correction:Faulty link corrected to today's issue
 
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #42: 31.03.07 at 15:12 »
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Update
 
Our Australian friends might like to know that Richard King’s review of Cultural Amnesia which was published by Brisbane Times was also published in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald and in the March the 30th  edition of the Melbourne broadsheet The Age.  
 
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #43: 01.04.07 at 19:10 »
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The Washington Post has just published an interview Clive gave to Mark Egan of Reuters. In it there is suggestion – I don’t know how seriously it is to be taken – that there may be another volume of Critical Amnesia.
 
Quote:

 
........James is nothing if not a hard worker. Having just published "Cultural Amnesia" in March, he is already gathering his thoughts for a second volume and who might appear in it.
 
-- President Bush: "He is living proof it is too early for the United States to have a president where English is his second language. He is no communicator."
 
-- Russian President Vladimir Putin: "He is right out of central casting from a mid-period James Bond movie."
 
-- Britney Spears: "Celebrity culture is essentially a language we all speak and we all know its parameters. Britney Spears is, unfortunately for her, our parameter for a career gone awry and for perfect stupidity."
 
-- Paris Hilton: "I would bring her into an essay on the perfectly trivial and whether it can be marketable."
 
-- David Beckham: "He is one of the world's most beautiful human beings. He has a face that belongs on the wall of a Greek temple but unfortunately he has to speak, which always tends to disappoint."................
 

 
And to think that I've only read the Slate extracts from the first volume. I'd better get moving, hadn't I?
 
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Charles de Gaulle, Bush and Clive
« Reply #44: 04.04.07 at 01:29 »
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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-gardels/on-iraq-bush-should-foll_b_44902.ht ml
 
In his new book Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories From History and the Arts, Clive James recounts Raymond Aron praising de Gaulle's courage and vision.  Aron extolled de Gaulle for "l'heroisme de l'abandon," or "the bravery to renounce" his commitment to keep fighting against Algerian independence when he came to see that undermined the interests and prestige of France.  
 
A lot was a stake. De Gaulle marshalled his idea of "grandeur" and a "certain idea of France" against his own right wing which consisted not of the mere barbed pundits on Fox TV that Bush faces, but armed rebels and roaming assassins.  
 
As a great statesman, de Gaulle understood that staying the course when there was no exit was foolish weakness. As a military man, he knew it sometimes required more bravery to change course. Bush ought to finally earn his righteous swagger by adding this phrase - l'heroisme de l'abandon -- to his lexicon.
 
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #45: 04.04.07 at 15:01 »
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Amen to that, Bogus. And no-one could accuse AWOL Dubya and his draft-dodging veep of having De Gaulle's military experience.
 
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #46: 04.04.07 at 16:43 »
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I agree, but I posted it more out of amazement that Clive's book made it to the pages of Huffington Post  Cheesy
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #47: 04.04.07 at 19:23 »
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Agreed also. Ms. Huffington (Stassinopoulos as was when I encountered her at Oxford) has almost become a friend to liberals these days. In some ways, though, both she and Clive are mavericks, so it may not be so odd after all.
 
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #48: 04.04.07 at 21:43 »
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And I first came face to face with her, in a manner of speaking, in the Book 1 of Clive's mock epic Britannia Bright's Bewilderment in the Wilderness of Westminster.
 
The eponymous heroine has just come up to Oxford.

 
    ........ Her looks required the stage  
    Her verbal aptitude, the printed page
    Her taste for Politics some kind of platform.
    Should her career take this form or else that form?  
    Propelled by pluralistic predilections
    Our girl was going off in all directions,
    Until, like Cinders meeting the Good Fairy,
    She bumped into a Student Luminary
    Who seemed to have Life's problems well in hand,
    With all that she surveyed hers to command.
    It happened at an Eights Week cocktail bash
    Thrown strictly for the Quality - no trash.
    The University's most stunning resident
    The Union's first and foremost female Preisdent,
    Britt's new-found friend was tall and well endowed
    And everything she said was very loud,
    As if delivered by a hill-top oracle
    To someone bobbing off-shore in a coracle.
    Put in your ear-plugs. Cover up your eyes,
    For so much pulchritude can paralyse;
    The system quavers at such oomph and bounce.
    Sit tight and hold your heads while I announce
    The most praetorian and least plebian
    Of Jet-Age Junos from the blue Aegean -
    Though some say Greece's gain was Oxford's loss
    Yes, ARIANNA SNAPITOPHOULOS!
    'I hear about you, Bratt'
                    yelled Arianna
     The words erupting like a vast hozannah
     'So far you 'aven' got it all together
     But one day you an' me birds of a feather'
     The Graecian demi-goddess bulked so large
     One's nose got caught in her décolletage,
     A wall of talcum like the Cliffs of Dover.
     The scent of jasmine almost bowled Britt over
     ..................................

 
To find out how Arianna helps her her new-found friend "Bratt" get "it together", you'll have to find the poem - it's still in circulation, and I don't wish to damage what market there might be for it.
 
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #49: 05.04.07 at 07:26 »
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One of The Wall Street Journal's drama critics, Terry Teachout, made this glowing contribution to contentions, a community blog offshoot of Commentary magazine.
 
Quote:

Clive James, like John Osborne, is not nearly so well known in the United States as in England, and his latest book, Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories From History and the Arts (W.W. Norton, 876 pp., $35), is unlikely to change that, partly because it is all but impossible to describe succinctly and partly because James himself is peculiarly resistant to pigeonholing. Not only is he a liberal who despises ideology in all its myriad forms and has a pitch-perfect ear for left-wing humbug—a combination of traits increasingly hard to find on either side of the Atlantic—but he is a spectacularly well-read cultural journalist who writes with witty flair about the most serious of ideas, which makes him an oddity in a po-faced world dominated by pop culture.
As for Cultural Amnesia, it’s a fat volume of short essays about a hundred or so people, most of them 20th-century artists and writers of various kinds. Each essay is a commentary on a well-chosen quotation from its subject, and the essays are arranged alphabetically. The overarching theme of the book is the fate of humanism in what James describes as “an age of extermination, an epoch of the abattoir,” meaning that many of its subjects either ran afoul of Hitler and Stalin or sucked up to them. Most of them are present for obvious reasons, though a few are ringers (I never did figure out why James thought Tony Curtis and Zinka Milanov belonged in a book about the likes of Jean Cocteau, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Stefan Zweig) and several others are unlikely to be familiar to the average reader (I readily admit to never having previously heard of Egon Friedell or Alfred Polgar, though reading Cultural Amnesia made me want to know much more about them).
All this is part of the deliberately eccentric, wonderfully unpredictable charm of Cultural Amnesia, which is a cross between a philosophical dictionary and a bedside book for eggheads. Most of it is full of good hard common sense: I can’t imagine better short discussions of such widely varied figures as Raymond Aron, F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Jean-Paul Sartre, to name only a few of the people in whom James takes an interest. He is especially good on bad guys, for he writes with a razor and has an uncanny knack for summing up a lifetime of intellectual vice in one or two devastating sentences: “In the long view of history, [Bertolt] Brecht’s fame as a creep will prevail, as it ought to. An unblushing apologist for organized frightfulness against the common people whose welfare he claimed to prize above his own, he was really no nicer than Sir Oswald Mosley, and a lot more dangerous.” I don’t know when I’ve read a more quotable book, or a more stimulating one
.  
 

 
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #50: 05.04.07 at 11:42 »
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Clive's Slate essay on Leon Trotsky has already generated some stimulating comments in various quarters. The Times Comment editor Daniel Finkelstein has made space in his April the 2nd column to draw attention to it, and in his online diary entry the columnist (he'll not approve of my creating a link to wikipedia) Oliver Kamm has quite rightly, but possibly unintentionally, come close to spotting that much of Clive's thinking about Trotsky (and indeed about totalitarianism in general) is very much influenced by his reading of George Orwell.
 
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #51: 07.04.07 at 11:38 »
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In today’s edition of The New York Times, the columnist Liesl Schillinger her review of Cultural Amnesia - a  capacious and capricious encyclopedia of essays, she calls it at one point -  by asking whether it wisdom or folly for Clive to have undertaken a feat such as this.
 
Quote:

Why split hairs? Perhaps it’s enough that he has completed it. Stéphane Mallarmé, who believed that “everything in the world exists in order to end up in a book,” labored for three decades to create a “grand oeuvre” that would capture “all existing relations between everything,” and produced nothing.  
 
James attempted the same thing over four decades, and produced almost 900 pages. It is irresistible to hijack one of his favorite aphorisms (said by Cocteau of Victor Hugo) and conclude: Clive James was a madman who thought he was Clive James. Still, unlike Hugo, James probably never intended for readers to consume his massive tome front to back; and tucking into the entries on a need-to-know basis can provide rich rewards with no choking risk. Grab a loaf here and there, and feed your mind
.
 

 
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #52: 09.04.07 at 12:26 »
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The baseball writer, book-reviewer and social critic, Allen Barra, has contributed to the latest edition of the web-based magazine Salon  a detailed critique of Cultural Amnesia while at the same time suggesting some very useful way in which Clive’s work as a critic may be best approached and judged.
Quote:

Many would like to toss James the mantle of Edmund Wilson's successor -- like Wilson, he is one of the last 20th century critics to believe the world can actually be grasped by an individual -- but in truth, James is just as profound as Wilson while being far more catholic.
 
He is an even greater critic of poetry than Wilson (a collection of James' essays on Auden, E.E. Cummings, Elizabeth Bishop and others would make a useful volume), and his taste in literature is far more wide-ranging. Wilson, for instance, disliked Spanish literature and would surely, had he lived longer, have shut out the exotic breeze wafting into the Northern Hemisphere from García Márquez's Mocambo. James has not only absorbed South American fiction, he is one of the first English-language critics to appreciate Mario Vargos Llosa's significance as a political thinker.  
 
To say that Wilson had no feel for popular culture is an understatement. For all of his progressive attitude as a critic, Wilson seems to the modern reader much more British in his outlook than the Australian-born James. Wilson tolerated mystery fiction, and cared little for movies and less for jazz despite, according to his last and best biographer, Lewis Dabney, harboring a love for Frank Sinatra records. That, I suppose, comes under the heading of guilty pleasure. To James, no pleasure is guilty. He can mine gold from Raymond Chandler, W.C Fields and Louis Armstrong, not to mention reruns of "The Rockford Files." If a team of scientists had been able to cross the DNA of Edmund Wilson with Pauline Kael and perhaps add a dash of Wilfrid Sheed, they would have come up with something like Clive James.

 

 
(I rather like the way Barra has drawn on his own 2005 essay on Edmund Wilson - itself owning something to Clive's reading of Wilson (see The Metropolitan Critic) - as background for the assertion that Clive is "as profound" as Wilson while being "far more catholic" than him.)
 
Having looked in some the issues raised by Cultural Amnesia, Barra concludes, as so many others seem to have concluded, that Cultural Amnesia does is make the reader either visit or revisit work of the people it discusses.  
 
Quote:

 
One of the things that distinguishes "Cultural Amnesia" from the finger-pointing, eat-your-bean-sprouts tomes about canons and multiculturalism is that James doesn't make you feel guilty, he makes you feel hungry. I'm going online to order a copy of Raymond Aron's "The Opium of the Intellectuals," and I'm going to rent "Sweet Smell of Success" for later tonight. I can hardly wait for Vol. 2.
 

 
Kevin Cryan
 
PS.  
 
Do rent a copy of Sweet Smell of Success, if you have never seen it. It a terrific film, let down only by weak perfromances of Martin Milner and Susan Harrison in supporting roles that should have been cast a lot more strongly. Watching it is a rewarding - but by no means jolly - experience.
« Last Edit: 09.04.07 at 13:15 by Kevin Cryan » IP logged
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #53: 10.04.07 at 10:32 »
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Those of you  who are still looking for the Christopher Hitchens Atlantic Monthly review of Cultural Amnesia that I mentioned a while back will find it here for the time being.  
 
As I have no idea how long Powells.com keeps its  review-a-day section freely accessible, I strongly recommend that those interested in reading it closely - and it does deserve more than one close reading -  take the precaution of downloading it for safekeeping.
 
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #54: 11.04.07 at 07:01 »
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Cultural Amnesia gets a mostly favourable review from short-story writer and music critic Michaelangelo Matos in today's edition of Baltimore's very sensibly named Baltimore City Paper.
 
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #55: 12.04.07 at 09:36 »
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'For those unfamiliar with the author, an American analogy to the aging wunderkind isn't easy. We don't really produce such creatures because there isn't a lot of respect in our culture for coming equipped with a lot of cultural baggage, no matter how lightly carried', writes Keith Monroe in this week's Relish, the weekly arts, entertainment and social magazine produced under the umbrella of the Winston–Salem Journal.  
 
I ask myself whether 'being equipped with a lot of cultural baggage' is the main reason –
indeed, if it's a reason at all - for the ageing wunderkind's being respected in our culture. Monroe seems to imply that it is. However, when I put aside the prejudice, not to say the snobbery, which says that, of course, we are so culturally more developed than the Americans that we take Clive and his 'cultural baggage' in our stride, I'm forced to conclude that he is as much a one-off as he would be in Monroe's America, and for very much the same reason as Monreo gives.  
 
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #56: 13.04.07 at 08:13 »
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Admirers of Clive's lyric-writing  - and indeed admirers of any of his writing – who would like to expand their understanding of the motor that drives it will, I believe,  be richly rewarded by reading, and rereading, his Slate essay on the philosopher Ludwig Witttgenstein.  
 
I know that many of those reading this, although they may take pleasure in Clive and his writing, will be put off this particular essay because in it he chooses to discuss philosophy, a subject that generally leaves them cold or lost, or both. Fear not, I say.  Clive, as he always does in these cases, bears in mind that the typical reader will be unfamiliar with the (linguistic) philosophy he is tackling in this essay, and he therefore makes as many allowences as he can for that by discussing it in (non-technical) terms that they will - not, I should add, without a little effort - understand.  
 
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #57: 13.04.07 at 17:21 »
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It's fascinating (to me at any rate) that Clive can read Wittgenstein but can't listen to Coltrane! Like so many other Voices and Clive's other fans, reading anything of Clive's critical work sends me off to the library to find out more about his various subjects but occasionally he slams someone whose work I know and like (Coltrane is a case in point.) However, it's comforting to know he loves the Eagles and dancing which proves he has a few basic weaknesses like the rest of us, er, you.
 
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #58: 14.04.07 at 19:26 »
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Tonight at 7pm Eastern time (12pm this side of the Atlantic) on C-SPAN2’s* Book TV you can watch on Real Player a programme devoted to Clive’s Cultural Amnesia.  
 
I've got no idea of what the content or format of this particular programme is. Very often with Book TV, what you get is an introduction to the book under discussion, followed by either an interview with its author, or by the author himself or herself making some introductory comments. However, don't be disapponted if neither here. I'm sure that whatever you get, it will be interesting. It usually is with Book TV broadcasts.  
 
Kevin Cryan    
 
*C-Span2 is an off shoot of the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network (acronym C-SPAN) an American cable network which covers public affairs and government proceedings.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Book TV does archive some of its programming - so if you miss tonight's broadcast, there is apossibility that it will be found later in the archives.
 
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Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
« Reply #59: 14.04.07 at 21:21 »
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Thanks for the info.  I will set the DVR!
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