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Kevin Cryan
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Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« : 03.01.15 at 10:03 »
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Books>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Books in 2015: the essential literary calendar

Friday 2 January 2015 12.00 GMT
 
Quote:
April
Poetry
 
Sentenced to Life by Clive James (Picador). Since James announced he is in the latter stages of a terminal illness he has produced a series of heart-rending yet clear-eyed poems looking back over his life and considering his situation.

 
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Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #1: 25.03.15 at 12:58 »
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The Guardian
 
Clive James  
 
Book of the week
 
Sentenced to Life review – Clive James’s poems from death’s door
 
The critic and wit’s return to poetry is suffused with loss and guilt, yet although his impending death is ever-present in the verse, his humour still shines through  
 

Clive James in 2006. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe/Guardian
 
Blake Morrison
Wednesday 25 March 2015 11.00 GMT

 
Quote:

 “It’s not that I’m afraid to die,” goes the Woody Allen line. “I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Not all writers feel the same. Some would like to be there to take notes: death is good material, “the trigger of the literary man’s biggest gun”, as William Empson put it. The ideal would be resurrection – the author, brought back to life, recounting what it feels like to expire. Next best, though not to be wished on anyone, is a drawn-out terminal illness, allowing for lengthy contemplation of what’s to come.
Clive James made his name as a television critic, essayist and wit. But he began as a poet, and four years on from being handed a death sentence (with leukaemia, emphysema and kidney failure – “the lot”), he is ending as a poet. In 2013, he published his 500-page translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, which he’d been working at for decades but only finalised after getting ill. His Poetry Notebook, a volume of appraisals and apercus, appeared last autumn. And now comes this collection of 37 poems, all composed over the past four years.
When in death, we’re in the midst of life – that’s the recurrent, bleakly hopeful theme. Things the poet once missed now appear “with a whole new emphasis”, for instance, the six fish in his daughter’s garden pool, “each a little finger long”:

Once I would not have noticed; nor have known  
The name for Japanese anemones,  
So pale, so frail. But now I catch the tone  
Of leaves. No birds can touch down in the trees  
Without my seeing them. I count the bees.

 

 
Read full review here
 
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #2: 02.04.15 at 15:51 »
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THE INDEPENDENT Thursday 02 April 2015  
 

 
Sentenced To Life by Clive James, book review: Wisdom and wit right to the end
 
Rebecca K Morrison Thursday 02 April 2015
 
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #3: 10.04.15 at 21:07 »
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The Sydney Morning Herald

Book review: Sentenced to Life, by Clive James
Books  
Date
April 10, 2015 - 11:45PM  
 
Reviewer: Geoff Page
 

Clive James has a seemingly effortless skill with rhyme.  

 
Sentenced to Life: Poems 2011-2014
By Clive James. Picador. $32.99.
 
Quote:

 
In addition to an incurable illness diagnosis, there are a few other things making Clive James' recent poetry particularly poignant. One is the poet's physical inability to return to his homeland for a last look. Another is the sense that from that "great bunch of guys", as James was once memorably described, the most important one was not the television star but the poet.
 
His recent, relatively prolific output in this form has a strong sense of making up for lost time. As James himself puts it in the acknowledgements for Sentenced to Life, "You can say you're on your last legs, but the way you say it might equally suggest that you could run a mile in your socks".
 

 
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #4: 17.04.15 at 15:03 »
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We are stardust: the restrained elegance of Clive James's Sentenced to Life
 
"The world you quit / Is staying here, so say goodbye to it."
 
by John Burnside Published 16 April, 2015 - 17:01
 

Clive James. Photo: Karen Robinson/Guardian News & Media

 
Quote:
]
Sentenced to Life 
 Clive James
Picador, 60pp, £14.99

At first glance, it would seem inevitable that a book whose main concern is with the author’s old age, illness and proximity to death might be mildly depressing. Poets from Catullus to Milton to Ted Hughes have elegised others wonderfully, but when they turn that gift on themselves, the danger of self-pity, in particular, becomes all too clear and the reader is tempted to look away.
 
All of which makes Sentenced to Life a brave and risky book, and by the time we reach “Compendium Catullianum”, whose opening line gleefully combines Catullus’s best-known Lesbia poem with the Monty Python dead parrot sketch – “My girlfriend’s sparrow is dead. It is an ex-sparrow” – we know that Clive James’s trademark wit will more than carry him through. Indeed, with its mixture of technical verve (James has always been a master of form) and self-deprecating wit to leaven the pathos, it seems that, as he moves through the phases of life’s penultimate stage (the final stage being death itself), he has reached the pinnacle of his powers.
 
....

 
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #5: 19.04.15 at 10:49 »
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Beautiful beyond life... Clive James's poetry
Unsurprisingly, in Clive James's latest poetry collection, the spectre of death looms large
 
Valerie Shanley      Published     19/04/2015 | 02:30
 

'Sentenced to Life': Clive James  
 
Death has been a rich reference in Clive James's writing. Back in 2004, in his essay 'Save Us From Celebrity', he thought about his perfect demise: "I want to be knifed to death in an Elle McPherson lingerie commercial."
 

 
Quote:
It's for that deadpan, Antipodean wit that most of us know James. Now, the resurrection of his literary work is taking centre stage. Since being diagnosed with terminal leukaemia and emphysema five years ago, James continues to frustrate the obituary writers, and is becoming startlingly productive as his time runs out. He has chosen poetry to best express a heightened awareness of the bittersweet beauty of life as he lingers in that last ante-chamber.
2013 saw the publication of his translation of Dante's epic poem 'The Divine Comedy, followed by his series of essays', Poetry Notebook: 2006 - 2014. His latest book further re-establishes the reputation he has always craved as a serious, literary writer. Sentenced to Life, James's volume of poems from 2011-2014, speaks of the intensity of emotions before life's end. He writes with what George Eliot described as the "acute consciousness" of "a man looking into the eyes of death:. It's there in the book's title poem:
"Once, I would not have noticed; nor have known
The name for Japanese anemones,
So pale, so frail. But now I catch the tone
Of leaves. No birds can touch down in the trees
Without my seeing them. I count the bees."
The constant changes in nature, echoing human experience, are observed in 'Japanese Maple', James's now famous and moving ode to the little tree bought for him by his daughter Claerwen when he became ill.
"That poem was tweeted all over the world. Whatever 'tweeting' is," he said in a recent BBC Radio Four interview.
 

 
Read on...
 
Kevin Cryan
 
Poetry:  
 
Sentenced to Life
 
Clive James
 
Picador, hbk, £10.49, 80p,
 
Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie  or by calling 091 709350
 
Indo Review
 
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #6: 02.05.15 at 10:30 »
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The Sydney Morning Herald  
 
Sentenced to Life review: Clive James veers into the sentimental
 
May 2, 2015 - 12:15AM  
 
Robert Gray*
 
Quote:
 
Poetry
Sentenced to Life: Poems 2011-2014
CLIVE JAMES
Picador, $32.99 
 
Clive James, whom the doctors say has a short time to live, has remarked that of the various kinds of literature he has pursued, he wants most to be known for his poetry.
 
The poems are much influenced by his famous memoirs and his literary journalism. As with his prose, in the poems there is a raciness, a thin clarity, a copious use of paradox (to the point of mannerism), and a boisterousness (maintained despite his being ill), rendered in traditional forms.
 

 
Read more......
 
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*Robert Gray's most recent books are Cumulus: Collected Poems (John Leonard Press) and Australian Poetry Since 1788, co-edited with Geoffrey Lehmann (UNSW Press).  
 
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #7: 03.05.15 at 10:57 »
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So, Robert Gray.  "Sentimentality .. an unavoidable consideration."  It's not easy to be sure I understand what he means by that.  Sentimentality, according to Chambers, means 'the tendency to indulge in sentiment or the affectation of fine feelings' or 'sloppiness'.  It's also not easy, in my opinion, to see how that might apply, much less that it's an unavoidable consideration.  Anybody else?
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #8: 03.05.15 at 14:31 »
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I suppose he has a point.  
Mean-spirited, though - "a thin clarity"?
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #9: 09.05.15 at 11:59 »
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I'm confused why in all these articles about Clive's literary talents and humerous talents the lyric writing seems to be ignored. The poems are talked of, the reviews are talked of, the memoirs are talked of, the essays are talked of, the TV shows are talked of -  I know as MV's we'll probably place a more biased importance on them but where's the talk of the lyrics?
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #10: 09.05.15 at 17:20 »
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In response to Pete's question, I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that, given the book's subject matter, sentimentality is an unavoidable consideration.  But it's a big step then to state that the poetry 'veers' into it (though, in fairness, I imagine the headline wasn't Gray's).  For me, one of the book's great qualities is that it deals, face-on, with topics that are potentially excruciatingly personal, often dancing on the edge of sentimentality in doing so. We can debate whether it's entirely successful - I think it is, and often remarkably so - but in my view we have to admire both the aim and the achievement.  
 
As to Cary's question, let's hope that The Colours of the Night receives the same kind of attention that's been accorded Sentenced to Life.  I'm sure it will be merited.
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #11: 17.05.15 at 11:47 »
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The Observer
 
Books
Poetry book of the month
 
Before the curtain comes down...
 
Sentenced to Life
Clive James

PICADOR £14.99 pp59
 
Kate Kellaway
 
Quote:
The punning title of Clive James's latest collection, published with the expectation that it will be his last, is characteristically robust. He is suffering from leukaemia but has been cracking staunch jokes   recently about the embarrassment of his continuing survival in the wake of poems written at what he believed to be his last gasp. Illness has changed his thinking but has not extinguished his spark. It has made him rueful, and grateful too. Many of the poems are an appeal to the heart, and in particular to the heart of his wife. The collections defining quality is gallantry and it is this that makes it so moving. There are also some infuriating and, perhaps inevitably, solipsistic poems here, but there is no fault you could highlight of which James himself is not aware and addressing in print....  
 

 
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #12: 19.05.15 at 12:27 »
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on 17.05.15 at 11:47, Kevin Cryan wrote:
The Observer
 
Books
Poetry book of the month
 
Before the curtain comes down...
 
Sentenced to Life
Clive James

PICADOR £14.99 pp59
 
Kate Kellaway
 
link is not yet available

Kevin Cryan

 
Link  
 
Kate Kellaway
Tuesday 19 May 2015 06.30 BST

 
Kevin Cryan
 
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #13: 25.05.15 at 15:19 »
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Irish Independent
 
Niall MacMonagle
Published 25/05/2015 | 02:30

 
Clive James - restless but blessed
 

 
Quote:

 
Though growing old and dying are as natural as evening fading into night, Dylan Thomas urges us to "Rage, rage against the dying of the light". But for Clive James, pictured, now 75 and terminally ill with leukaemia, there is no rage. Raconteur, critic, polyglot, novelist, man of letters, man of the world, James, author of over thirty books, has lived the life and now at journey's end he sees himself as restless but blessed.
 

 
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #14: 11.07.15 at 11:01 »
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Best holiday reads 2015
 
 
From a study of beachcombing to the year’s best crime fiction, leading authors recommend favourites and reveal what books they’ll be packing for the summer holidays

 

Books for the beach. Illustration: Toby Morison
 
The Guardian
 
Saturday 11 July 2015 08.00 BST  
 
AS Byatt
Quote:

 
Anyone who has not read Ruth Scurr’s John Aubrey (Chatto & Windus) can have a splendid time reading it this summer. Scurr has invented an autobiography the great biographer never wrote, using his notes, letters, observations – and the result is gripping. I read and reread Eric Kandel’s The Age of Insight (Random House) – a study of neuropsychology, the making of art and the great paintings of artists in Vienna during the 20th century. He is an Austrian Nobel prizewinning neuropsychologist who understands the making of art from inside. Like many others, I am also reading and rereading Clive James’s poems about his own approaching death:Sentenced to Life (Picador). Wise, witty, terrifying, unflinching and extraordinarily alive, they are both a great pleasure and a chill in the nerves. Finally, my bed is covered with the thrillers of Walter Mosley, who may just be the greatest thriller writer ever.

 

 
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #15: 12.07.15 at 11:12 »
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Best holiday reads 2015  
 

From a portrait of modern-day Britain at work to New York in the 1940s, taking in the secret world of Fifa and tales of female friendships, authors, critics and other bookworms tell us which books they will be reading on the beach


Illustration by Sarah Tanat-Jones.
 
The Observer
Sunday 12 July 2015 08.00 BST  
 
AS Byatt
Novelist
Quote:

Top of anyone’s reading pile should be two beautifully written and original recent English novels – Will Cohu’s Nothing But Grass (Chatto & Windus £16.99) and Melissa Harrison’s At Hawthorn Time (Bloomsbury £12.99), which kept me awake until 3.30am. Years ago, I chose Gogol’s Dead Souls (Penguin £9.99) as the book I always meant to read – I did in fact read it, but suddenly feel the need to read and remember it again.

 
John Banville
Writer  
Quote:

I detest holidays and have to be dragged off on them; books are the only consolation. This year, to County Carlow and Lucca, I shall take Clive James’s Sentenced to Life (Picador £14.99), his superb, late poems on mortality, his own and everyone else’s. Also in my bag will be Pascal Garnier’s Boxes (Gallic Books £7.99), which is sure to freeze the cockles of my heart nicely. For those unacquainted with Garnier’s work, think Simenon and Patricia Highsmith mixed, with jokes added to the black brew. And I shall be rereading Theodor Fontane’s ineffable Effi Briest, in a new translation by Mike Mitchell (Oxford World’s Classics £8.99).
 

 
Kevin Cryan
 
PS The keen-eyed will have noticed that Byatt has done a little repacking. Don't we all?
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #16: 19.08.15 at 10:34 »
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Catholic Herald
 
Comment & Blogs
 
Books blog: How would Clive James like to be remembered
 
by Francis Phillips * posted Tuesday, 18 Aug 2015
 

Clive James (PA)  
The Australian's collection of poems, Sentenced to Life, reflect the sorrows and regrets of his life
Quote:

 
Having by chance heard Clive James read from his latest collection of poems, written between 2011 and 2014, on Radio 4 recently I was interested enough to get hold of a copy of the book, Sentenced to Life. James was a postgraduate Australian student at Cambridge in the 1960s and quickly made an impression. He has gone on to have a very public and successful career as an author, critic, broadcaster, journalist, poet, translator and chat show host.
 
How would he like to be remembered? I raise the question because New Yorker columnist, David Brooks, asks a similar one question in his book, The Road to Character, which I mentioned in my last blog: do we want to be remembered for our CV, listing all our qualifications and worldly successes (in the way that Wikipedia lists all James’s considerable output in several different fields), or do we want to be remembered for the way in which our “character” has impressed other people? By character, Brooks means qualities like steadfastness, perseverance, integrity, loyalty – and humility.
 
Humility is generally the first casualty of fame – and James is a famous media personality. Yet the reason I went out and got a copy of his poems is because behind the wheezing tones of an old man (he is suffering from the life-limiting conditions of emphysema and leukaemia) I sensed a deeper note of authenticity in his voice, a recitation not played for laughs (which have always come easily to James in the past), but instead, stating how reality now strikes him, in short, well-crafted, moving lyrics.
 
They reflect the sorrows and regrets of his life – not least the pain he caused his wife when details of an affair were widely publicised in 2012. Driftwood Houses includes the line, “A sad man, sorrier than he can say” and in Rounded with a Sleep he writes, “No cure, that is, for these last years of grief/As I repent and yet find no relief”. They show him facing up to death without flinching or self-pity: “Today I am restored by my decline/And by the harsh awakening it brings.” In My Home he describes his writing, in a beautiful image, as “the sad skirl of a piper in the rain”, adding, “If I seem close to tears/It’s for my sins…”
 
“Sins” is a word it’s hard to avoid, even when you are an atheist like James. He has described religions as “advertising agencies for a product that doesn’t exist” and in an interview with Jon Snow on Channel 4 in 2010 he made it clear he believes there is no life beyond this one. “That it is here we live or else nowhere” is the constant refrain in the poem Event Horizon.  
 
Yet behind this conviction there is, I sense, a yearning for some form of immortality. There is so much awareness of natural beauty, so much intense self-reflection and so strong a wish to get life into some perspective – “I spent a lifetime pampering my mind” he laments in Change of Domicile – that I think his poetical and creative heart is at odds with his rational, argumentative mind.  
 
Sometimes the crafting of a poem is the nearest one can get to the mystery of eternal beauty
.
 

 
Kevin Cryan
 
*Francis Phillips
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #17: 20.11.15 at 09:53 »
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The Spectator

 
Spectator books of the year: Mary Beard on how Clive James went viral
 
Mary Beard*
19 November 2015
 

A Japanese maple in autumn (Christopher Furlong, Getty)

Quote:
..................This year we have Clive James’s wonderful (and let’s hope not last) collection of poetry, Sentenced to Life(Picador, £14.99), including the marvellous ‘Japanese Maple’, which unusually for a poem went viral after it first appeared in the New Yorker.
 

 
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*Mary Beard  
 
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #18: 06.12.15 at 11:06 »
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The Observer columnist Kate Kellaway has chosen Sentenced to Life as one of her poetry books of the year.
 
Quote:

 
This year, Clive James - suffering from leukaemia - took up the idea of writing to stay alive in earnest. Sentenced to Life is that rare beast in poetry: a bestseller, a moving take on his, and our own, mortality. The godmother of a friend on mine, a woman over 100, wrote to congratulate James on his new collection and he replied with a new poem dedicated to her.
* Most writers write, in the first instance, for themselves. The least appealing poets write to themselves: their poems might well come with a "Keep Out" sign. But of this crime, James is innocent. His Japanese Maple, the most feted poem in the collection, will last.
 

 
*see Living with leukaemia posting 05/12/2015
 
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Re: Sentenced to Life by Clive James
« Reply #19: 18.12.15 at 08:17 »
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The shock of the new, the comfort of the old: Poetry to make your year magical
By Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail
Published: 18:58, 17 December 2015 | Updated: 19:28, 17 December 2015
 
Quote:
...
 
Sentenced To Life
by Clive James
(Picador £14.99)

 
My love of poetry is often challenged nowadays by what feels wilfully obscure and technically sloppy in current work.  
 
So I celebrate the magnificence of multi-talented Clive James's last poems, and hope that his terminal illness (he describes himself as 'dying by inches') will still allow him to write many more.
 
These poems, full of guilt, love, honesty, passion and coruscating intellect will communicate with elegance and clarity to any heart consumed with the sadness and glory of mortality.
 
A tour de force which makes me cry each time I return to it - which is often.
 

 
Buy this book
 
...

 
link
 
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