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Pete Atkin >> Words >> Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
(Message started by: Kevin Cryan on Today at 10:33)

Title: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on Today at 10:33
Clive's Cultural Amnesia: Notes from the Margin of my Time, to be published here in May by Pan Macmillian (http://www.panmacmillan.com/Trade%20and%20Media%20Centre/Rights/displayPage.asp?PageTitle=Individual%20Rights%20Title&BookID=384938&Category=) seems to be already available in the US (http://www.amazon.com/Cultural-Amnesia-Necessary-Memories-History/dp/0393061167/) under the rather less elegantly resonant title Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts.

Adapted extracts such as this one (http://www.slate.com/id/2160283/) being published in Slate (http://www.slate.com/).

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on Today at 11:01
Correction: The title Cultural Amnesia: Notes from the Margin of my Time should read Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of my Time.

Kevin

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on Today at 16:27
I have just noticed that 11 essays can be accessed by clicking the icon marked I have just noticed that 11 essays can be accessed by clicking the icon marked [bgcolor=Black]Clive's Lives[/bgcolor] (http://www.slate.com/?id=3944&cp=2158912) at the top of any Slate essay page, or by clicking here (http://www.slate.com/?id=3944&cp=2158912).


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 04.03.07 at 17:56
If anyone is in vicinity of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, New York, before 7PM on Monday the 26th of March, then consider popping along to catch Clive at the New York Public Library (http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/pep/pepdesc.cfm?id=2672) where, in the South Court Auditorium, he’ll be talking to the library's Director of Public Programs Paul Holdengräber about Cultural Amnesia.

The $15 entrance fee ($10 to library donors) for an hour and a half of Clive talking about any of the many fascinating subjects his book covers is, I'll suggest, money well spent.

If anybody wants to check that out, then read the 12 Slate essays that are now available. The essay on Duke Ellington (http://politics.slate.msn.com/id/2159744/
) is probably a good place to start, if only because it offers the reader some considerable insight into Clive's views on popular music and popular music-making.  

Here he his at his very best. After saying that Philip Larkin had said all the funny things that were to be said about John Coltrane (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Coltrane), he writes:

"There is not a phrase that asks to be remembered except as a lesion to the inner ear, and the only purpose of the repetitions is to prove that what might have been charitably dismissed as an accident was actually meant. Shapelessness and incoherence are treated as ideals. Above all, and beyond all, there is no end to it. There is no reason except imminent death for the cacophonous parade to stop. The impressiveness of the feat depends entirely on the air it conveys that the perpetrator has devoted his life to making this discovery: Supreme mastery of technique has led him to this charmless demonstration of what he can do that nobody else can. The likelihood that nobody else would want to is not considered."

That is Clive at his very best. You may not agree with his judgements - and I myself am not wholly convinced about them here - but you have to admit that, through sheer force of argument, they do make you sit up and pay attention. I especially like the line which says that the only purpose  "of the repetitions is to prove that what might have been charitably dismissed as an accident was actually meant". Sheer class!!!!



Kevin Cryan





Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by naomi on 04.03.07 at 19:48
Did anyone else hear Duke Ellington on Alex Jennings's selection of "Private Passions" on Radio 3 today ?
( The BBC website gives the following info - Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue,  Duke Ellington Orchestra, rec. live at Newport, 1956, CBS 4509862 T.5 )

What brilliance, what joy. Those cats could sure swing !!!

Naomi

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 04.03.07 at 21:24
And, what's more, it's here for the next 7 days (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/privatepassions/pip/1hsjv/).


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 05.03.07 at 21:21
Vanity Fair (http://www.vanityfair.com/)'s excellent cultural critic James Wolcott (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Wolcott), posted the following to his blog on the 1st of March. As it demonstrates just how highly Clive is regarded by the American literary intelligentsia, I think it should be printed here in its entirety.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

2007: Year of the Clive


If your bug antennae are tuned into the higher cultural frequencies, you can't help but be aware that a heavy object has been hurtling toward us from across the Atlantic, its shadow spreading as it nears impact. I speak of Clive James's spring offensive. Poet, critic, memoirist, novelist, talkshow host, travel-show presenter, documentarian (Fame in the 20th Century), eulogist of Princess Diana,   vlog interviewer (http://daily.nysun.com/Repository/getmailfiles.asp?Style=OliveXLib:ArticleToMail&Type=text/html&Path=NYS/2006/01/18&ID=Ar01300), tango enthusiast, the Australian expatriate--a charter member of the Fab Four (the others being, of course, Robert Hughes, Germaine "Germs" Greer, and Barry "Dame Edna" Humphries")--has beavering away to beat the band for decades, but over these last twelve-to-twenty four months he has really been aburst, a Renaissance man enjoying an autumnal renaissance (http://www.bryanappleyard.com/article.php?article_id=45). Year before last, he published his latest volume (volley) of criticism, The Meaning of Recognition (http://www.amazon.com/Meaning-Recognition-Essays-2001-2005/dp/033044025X), last year he brought out volume four of his memoirs, North Face of Soho (http://www.amazon.com/North-Face-Soho-Clive-James/dp/0330481282/sr=1-2/qid=1172786955/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2/104-9240171-5035913?ie=UTF8&s=books), featuring floppy-haired swannings by those then-young charismatics Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens, and now, the magnum opus mothership, Cultural Amnesia (http://www.amazon.com/Cultural-Amnesia-Necessary-Memories-History/dp/0393061167/sr=1-1/qid=1172786955/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/104-9240171-5035913?ie=UTF8&s=booksCultural%20Amnesia), of which a fine selection of meaty portions can be found on Slate under the shingle Clive’s Lives (http://www.slate.com/id/2159088/).

Apart from books, James has also been popping up in the more exclusive periodicals, perhaps his splashiest performance being his must-read TLS review (http://www.tls.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,25336-2576533,00.html) of Zachary Leader's sprawling Kingsley Amis biography. He has also been doing a series of podcasts for BBC4, the most recent one I heard a hilarious analysis of the motifs and magical thinking of martial-arts movies, with killer oneliners about Richard Gere ("born with narrowed eyes") and Jean-Claude Van Damme ("his face is a bodybuilder's bicep in worried search of its original arm").*

I can't help but be gladdened by James's juggernaut resurgence. My interest is not impersonal. As a TV critic for the Village Voice, I stole judiciously from his TV column in the London Observer, the most witty, slashing, inspiring, infectious weekly performance since Kenneth Tynan was the chain-smoking king of drama critics.

He and I share a deeper bond. In the Seventies we flew together in a commuter prop plane to visit Pauline Kael in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, hit major storm turbulence, the plane bouncing and rocking so hard in the air that teeth began to hurt, and, as we descended toward the air strip, we could see people sitting on a nearby hillside, as if picnicking. What do you think they're doing? I asked, to which Clive replied, "Waiting to see if we crash."

We didn't, of course. We and the world were mercifully spared. Imagine the incalculable loss to criticism--to culture--to humanity--if we had perished in that plucky prop plane. I pale at the thought of it.

I suspect Clive and I won't have much time to reminisce at the book party being thrown for him later this month. He may not even remember his fellow passenger on that near-tragic sortie, the intervening years obscuring the patterns in the sand. Or he may recall that I panned his first memoir in the New York Review of Books and haul off and clobber me one. After all Norman Podhoretz was still huffy about Wilfrid Sheed's review of Making It when their orbits intersected thirty years later; then again, Podhoretz has made a second career out of feeling huffy and inflating his huffiness into proud prophet sourpuss righteousness. Clive isn't like that. He's retained a liberal humanism that rejects the zealous pursuit of grievance and payback, and more importantly he's retained his robust humor, humor being something of which Podhoretz was never notably endowed, even when he was young and frisky. It's hard to enjoy yourself when the world refuses to let you set it aright.

*To listen, click here (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/atoz/index.shtml#p), scroll down under the letter "P" to "Point of View, A," then click where it says, "Listen." (For some reason, the website link for A Point of View doesn't seem to be working.)


March 1, 2007, 7:58 PM | permalink (http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/blogs/wolcott/2007/03/httpwwwamazonco.html)

>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by naomi on 05.03.07 at 21:42
"It's hard to enjoy yourself when the world refuses to let you set it aright" ...

Now that's a really nice description of humourless ideologues of both Left and Right  !!  

It also reminds me of one of my favourite lines from the Bard (in Twelfth Night):

"Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?"

N

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 09.03.07 at 17:48
The April edition of The Atlantic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Atlantic_Monthly) (also known as The Atlantic Monthly) contains a Christopher Hitchins (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Hitchens) penned review of Clive's Cultural Amnesia.

This is available from The Atlantic online (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200704/hitchens-cultural-amnesia) now, but only to those who subscribe, or agree to subscribe, to that august journal.


Kevin Cryan

PS

To date Slate has published 14 adapted extracts (http://www.slate.com/?id=3944&cp=2158912) from Cultural Amnesia, the latest of which deals with the Polish-born historian Lewis Namier (http://www.slate.com/id/2161403/) (1888–1960) who became a British subject in 1913 and wrote so much about English history that he came to be thought of as an English historian.

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 14.03.07 at 07:02
Cultural Amnesia has got a thoughtful thousand word review from Regina Marler in the February 14th edition (http://www.observer.com/20070319/20070319_Regina_Marler_culture_books.asp) of The New York Observer.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 14.03.07 at 09:59
"In a time when criticism is dominated by the theory-sick monographs of academics, and when the future seems to belong to amateur and professional blurbists, it is more than entertaining to read Mr. James's lucid, passionate, erudite essays. It is heartening, and seems to promise that the critical role once played by a Samuel Johnson or an Edmund Wilson is still possible in the 21st century" writes Adam Kirsch in the February 13th edition (http://www.nysun.com/article/50441) of The New York Sun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Sun).

It's good to see that even someone who is modestly described as a "staff writer" by the Sun has recognised exactly who Clive's precursors are. I'm tempted to say that it takes an American reviewer to judge Clive's critical work by standards which, it seems to me, he sets himself, or by standards by which he certainly will not mind being judged. Most of Clive's English reviewers I've read have missed the point. I resist this generalisation simply because I suspect that this American reviewer, Adam Kirsch, may be unusual in that he holds the not very fashionable opinion that work of Samuel Johnson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Johnson) and Edmund Wilson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Wilson)* is still relevant, and, moreover, that their work should still be used as a benchmark. In other words, his approvingly comparing Clive's role with theirs may say more about him as an individual than it does about the American reviewers or reviewing.

*for more about Wilson see Clive's collection of essays The Metropolitan Critic.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Pete Atkin on 14.03.07 at 10:41
I think Kevin makes an extraordinarily important point.   It could easily turn out that Clive gets something much more like his due in the US where the ability to do more than one thing well is not regarded with snobbery and suspicion.   Clive's popular, i.e. TV, fame in this country has a lot to do with the frequent ignoring and underrating of his best work, including, dare I say, his lyrics.   In America he doesn't carry that taint, and it will be interesting to see how things develop there.

Pete

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 14.03.07 at 12:22
Writing in code early in the morning confuses me. The truth is it confuses me any time.  I should have said that both reviews are in the 14th of March editions of the The New York Observer and The New York Sun, but I guess readers figured that out by now.


Kevin

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Keith Busby on 14.03.07 at 13:55
Adam Kirsch (and Kevin) might be pleased to hear that there are still some academics, including this one, whose monographs, are not "theory-sick". Au contraire, I am regarded by some as something of a Luddite for having refused to espouse "theory" of any kind. It is a serious problem, however, for young job-seekers in academia, who usually have to show they are following the flavour of the month (currently Zizec, for example) or are otherwise trendoid to the nth degree. I'm reminded of a series of "If . . ." from a few years back, where Steve Bell did a beautiful job on Derrida's visit to Oxford. The kind of intelligent critical work that Clive does unfortunately has no place in academe these days. Stateside MVs will no doubt keep their eyes skinned and report on any US manifestations of interest in Clive.

Keith

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 15.03.07 at 22:17
I'd just like to put a good word in for "flavour of the month", or at least the "flavour of the month" you singled out as your example.  

I have to say at the outset that I’m not very familiar with Žižek (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavoj_Zizek)'s theoritical work, but what I do say is that if is imbued with the playfullness and brio he showed Sophie Finnes's three-part documentry The Perverts Guide to Cinema (http://www.thepervertsguide.com/), then he may have something going for him.

In that film,  he puts forward his theories about how cinema works in a way that challenged rather than intimidated the viewer. One viewer at least - this viewer, I should say - came away from the viewings with a lot more questions that he had when he first sat down to watch, and that can be no bad thing. Žižek, in my view, did not appear to be saying, as many theorists do, that the theoritical framework he was using was altogether better than anyone else's, or that everybody else had got it wrong and he'd got it right, and for that reason alone I don’t think I’d want to dismiss him altogether.

And there is another side to him that I like. You have only to read essays like this one (http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1682760,00.html) to realize he’s a polemicist of considerable power and clarity.  


Kevin Cryan


Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Keith Busby on 16.03.07 at 00:59
My point really concerned the mania in academe to have a new prophet every month, and was not to criticize the quality of Žižek's (or Derrida's or Lacan's or Deleuze's) work, which is often bastardized by the obsession with making it applicable to all kinds of specialisms. That said, some good always comes out the trends. We may just have to put up with the attendant noise and fluff in order to reap the rewards. I apologize to Žižek for having omitted his diacritics. There must be a good pun there . . .

Keith

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 18.03.07 at 16:29
It seems that it’s not just Clive who thinks that jazz music lost something (http://politics.slate.msn.com/id/2159744/) with the coming of experimentation and bebop. Clive Davis, at the end of a Times review of LPO Regna Ensemble performance of The Birth of The Cool (http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/stage/article1290959.ece) by Miles Davis, commenting on the some of the other material on the programme, mostly composed by the concert supervisor Scott Stroman,  asserted that if you wanted proof  that  “contemporary jazz musicians have all but lost the ability to write pithy, memorable tunes, look no farther”, and he added that “there is still an awful lot we can learn from the era of the 78rpm”  


That of course is not quite the same thing as as being unequivocally dismissive of everything that is produced after “the era of the 78rpm” which is pretty much what Clive, if I have understood him correctly, is. What Davis is saying is that modern musicians are incabable of writing in a particular form, the form that could be accomodated by the 78rpm, which to me is very much like saying our poets are incapable of tackling a lyric or a sonnet form. How often do we hear critics complain about poets who have not mastered those forms? Actually, more often than you’d expect.

The truth is that the critic cannot legislate for the creator. The creator has, and should have, the final word. If he or she does not feel that “memorable, pithy tunes (or, in the case of poets, the lyric or sonnet)” are what best express his or her intentions, then there very little that anybody, least of all the critic, can do about it. The artist in the end has to be taken on his or her own terms. The artists output must always be judged on what it is, or on what it aspires to be, and not on what it isn’t, or doesn't aspire to be.  

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 19.03.07 at 08:44
The American reviews of Cultural Amnesia are coming so thick and fast that I'm beginning to feel, as the review word-count mounts, that by the time I get to read the book itself I'll have read as many words about it as there are in it.  The following is the rather odd concluding paragraph of  the one the New York journalist and critic  Matthew Price has written for yesterday's Los Angeles Times (http://www.calendarlive.com/books/bookreview/cl-bk-price18mar18,0,764709.htmlstory?coll=cl-books-features).

"Looking through "Cultural Amnesia," you'd think the last century was a huge conspiracy against the values and creativity James cherishes. True, liberalism may be the most detested creed of the modern era, hated by extremes of left and right alike. Stalin hounded Akhmatova. French historian Marc Bloch, another of James' heroes, was tortured and executed by the Nazis. The book's list of persecuted figures is chilling. Small wonder James loves prewar Vienna, where "learning was a voluntary passion, and wit was a form of currency" and intellectual polymaths reigned with the cafes as their campus. But that world was doomed: Many of its free-ranging thinkers were Jewish, and the rest is too sad to contemplate. In "Cultural Amnesia," James tries to capture this Vienna's bickering, zesty, experimental fizz, but it's a high-wire act even the most agile Viennese intellect couldn't pull off."

Although I have read the full review twice, I'm still a little confused about what Price is saying.  Is he concluding that liberalism (both Clive's and that of Vienna) is a doomed doctrine, and that no "intellectual polymath" can do anything about that? If that is what he is saying, then it's pretty depressing conclusion.

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 19.03.07 at 10:17
As I was saying,  the reviews are coming in thick and fast. This very generous one (http://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/entertainment/1174120900129370.xml&coll=2), which appeared in yesterday's edition of the wonderfully titled The Fair Dealer(a Cleveland newspaper), should warm the cockles of Clive's heart. The reviewer here, Alan Cate (http://www.greenwood.com/psi/author/C/Alan_C._Cate.aspx), has fully understood exactly what it is Clive is attempting to do in writing Cultural Amnesia, and, what's more, he concludes that the attempts have been successsful.

"Cultural Amnesia" is not another of those dreary "cultural literacy" books, which purport to list for us all the things we ought to know. Nor does it assert the superiority of Western civilization. Rather, James wants to rescue and preserve humanism - that universal catalog of ethical beliefs affirming the dignity and worth of all people. As such, this erudite book does not exist, to borrow from the 19th century Swiss cultural historian Jacob Burckhardt, merely "to make us more clever next time, but wise forever."

A very different, altogether more optimistic, conclusion from Matthew Price's in the LA Times. It probably carries a little more weight, and will, I suspect, please Clive all the more, because it comes from the pen, wordprocesssor or whatever of a practicing historian.

Kevin Cryan

PS. Cate mentions that Clive is a "songwriter"; mind you, he also mentions that he's also an "actor".  Where are all those great lost performances?

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 20.03.07 at 07:20
Michiko Kakutani (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michiko_Kakutani), in her  New York Times review (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/20/books/20kaku.html) of Clive's Cultural Amnesia, published today, spots in this volume something that has been one of the great strengths of all Clive's writing.

In the end, one of the most valuable things about this volume is that Mr. James not only sends the reader in search of original texts written by or about his subjects, but also provides lots of other useful reading suggestions. On Vienna, there is Carl E. Schorske’s classic “Fin-de-Siècle Vienna” and Stefan Zweig’s “World of Yesterday,” as well as lesser-known works like Friedrich Torberg’s memoir “Die Tante Jolesch” and George Clare’s “Last Waltz in Vienna.” On Ludwig Wittgenstein, he recommends both Ray Monk’s first-rate biography, “The Duty of Genius,” and David Pears’s short book “Wittgenstein.”

“Given thirty seconds to recommend a single book that might start a serious young student on the hard road to understanding the political tragedies of the twentieth century,” Mr. James singles out Heda Margolius Kovaly’s  “Prague Farewell.” And pressed to name “one of the great books of the modern world,” he cites Arthur Schnitzler’s little 200-page odd collection, “Book of Sayings and Thoughts.”

“Cultural Amnesia,” of course, is itself a book of Sayings and Thoughts, though on a wildly more inflated scale. It’s not the sort of volume most people will want to read straight through, but rather one to dip into here and there — a volume to be treasured less for its own sake than for all the other books it will make the reader want to read
(my italics).

Much of Clive's critical effort has been focused on making his "reader want to read". So it comes as no surprise to me - and I'm sure to others - that Cultural Amnesia has that effect on Ms. Kakutani. Many of us would say that she has just learned from reading Cultural Amnesia  what quite a few of us have known for a long time.

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 21.03.07 at 07:37
What a wonderful thing keeping an online diary (or blogging, if you like)  is? Here are Professor Joseph Duemer (http://www.geocities.com/comprepoetica/bios/bio32.html)* thoughts on the NYT review of Clive's Cultural Amnesia, posted hours before (jd | 19 Mar 2007 05:40 pm) the actual review came online. How about that?
___________________________________________________________________
Clive James (http://www.sharpsand.net/2007/03/19/from-a-nytb-review-of-clive-james/)

I’ve only read a few pieces here & there by Clive James, but if this is a accurate review (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/20/books/20kaku.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin), Cultural Amnesia looks to be worth both the price & the heft:

"In many cases the portrait of the individual in question is simply a launching pad for the author’s free-associative musings, which tend to spiral around several recurrent themes: the shattering legacy of Nazism and Communism, the two totalitarian movements that overshadowed the 20th century; the dangers posed by ideologies that try to reduce the world’s dazzling complexity to simplistic formulas; and the preciousness and fragility of humanism as a cultural ideal".

Humanism has gotten a good & sometimes deserved drubbing from post-modernism & from scientism, but what the hell else have we got? I aspire to a capacious & generous humanism — I’ll do without the capital H.
____________________________________________________________________

Kevin Cryan


*Joseph Duemer is Professor of Humanities at Clarkson University in northern New York. He is a poet and the poetry editor of The Wallace Stevens Journal. His own most recent book is Magical Thinking (2001). He has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2000 – 2001 he was a Fulbright Research Fellow in Hanoi, Vietnam. He blogs at sharpsand.net.

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 23.03.07 at 07:46
There is profile of sorts (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601088&sid=aBY.m0QpwfmM&refer=home) of Clive on the Bloomberg.com (http://www.bloomberg.co.uk/media/tv/tv_index_europe.html) site. The only thing interesting about it is that it spells out - horror of horrors - a Cultural Amnnesia "mission statement".

I can just see this  turning up on a Cultural Studies exam paper.


Quote:
"If the humanism that makes civilization civilized is to be preserved into the new century, it will need advocates. These advocates will need a memory,'' Clive James writes in the introduction to his book Cultural Amnesia.

Discuss.




Kevin Cryan




Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 23.03.07 at 20:34
Whatever the critical response, the book is a monument to James's belief that there is always a market for complex ideas, elegantly expressed, and that everybody has a right to be able to learn whatever they want. Whether his book is admired or not, it is impossible not to respect the author for writing it.”

This is the concluding  paragraph of Stephen Matchett’s essay about Clive in in today’s edition (http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21415401-38856,00.htm) of The Australian (http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/). I say that is about Clive because, although Matchett is ostensibly writing a review of the of Cultural Amnesia, which is being published in Australia in April, what he is in point of fact doing is taking stock of Clive’s life’s work, and arguing that the book is the ultimate product of that life’s work.

Occasionally in the course of the review, Matchett begins to sound like someone who doing a terrific piece promotional work for the man he obviously believes to be the real deal. No, on second thoughts, I suggest that he sounds more like a fan who can't stop himself talking about his hero.  

"Because James is a fine writer and broadcaster, he has always made his achievements either appear a great deal easier to accomplish than they had been or, even more impressive, as if they were no achievement at all. But what he has done is quite extraordinary. His memoir of growing up in suburban Sydney, Unreliable Memoirs, was published 30 years ago but it has kept on selling across the years and is now at the million-copy mark. He may have spent most of his life working in television and publishing in the posher parts of the popular press, rather than writing specialist scholarly monographs, but his new book will keep alive the ideas of dozens of 20th-century thinkers who would otherwise disappear into academic obscurity. "

It's doubtful that he does either Clive or the book any favours by writing in this manner, or, to put it more precicely, it's doubtful he's doing either either the favours he thinks he’s doing them.

Elsewhere Martchett, when he is actually gets down to looking at how Clive has achieved the things he has, he adopts a more measured tone and, in dong so, gets to the heart of things:

It is this desire to spread ideas, independent of the castes of academic life or the culture of self-appointed arbiters of popular culture, that is at the heart of James's work. He believes in a republic of letters where everybody has access to ideas and ideals, clearly expressed. As he puts it in North Face of Soho, "elites are death for the popular arts. Indeed elites are death for the arts in general. Everything created should be composed on the assumption that it can be enjoyed by anybody, if not by everybody."

That about hits the nail on the head.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 24.03.07 at 12:11
There is a rather good interview with Clive (http://www.smh.com.au/news/books/a-few-of-clives-favourite-footnotes/2007/03/22/1174153246787.html) in today’s edition of The Sydney Morning Herald (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_morning_herald).


Quote:
Cultural Amnesia, he says, "teaches people things they ought to know" in order to remain alert to any threat to intellectual freedom. It is not supposed to be a canon of prescribed reading or a survey of European thought, although its alphabetical arrangement means that it is, inevitably, being misapprehended as both those things. What it is, really, is just a book of the stuff James finds arresting. It's a bit like his old chat shows in that there is at least as much of him in it as there is of his intellectual celebrity guests.


Kevin Cryan

PS

The Australian edition of Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the margin of my time, by Clive James (Picador, $49.95) is published next month

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Ian Chippett on 24.03.07 at 12:55
Clive said:

<<The moral is clear. "You've got to be ready to be forgotten; it's unrealistic to expect anything else," he says.>>

Now, where did I hear this before (expressed in a slightly different way?)

Ian C

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by BogusTrumper on 24.03.07 at 21:09

on 03/24/07 at 12:55:24, Ian Chippett wrote :
Clive said:

<<The moral is clear. "You've got to be ready to be forgotten; it's unrealistic to expect anything else," he says.>>

Now, where did I hear this before (expressed in a slightly different way?)

Ian C


That sounds awfully familiar, but you can't really expect me to remember, can you?   ;)

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 25.03.07 at 11:11
Matthew Price’s querelous LA Times review (http://www.calendarlive.com/books/bookreview/cl-bk-price18mar18,0,764709.htmlstory?coll=cl-books-features) Clive’s Cultural Amnesia is reprinted in  the book review section (http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/booksmags/bal-id.bk.amnesia25mar25,0,7419705.story?coll=bal-artslife-books) of today’s edition of The Baltimore Sun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore_Sun) under the somewhat surprising headline: Clive James: a brilliant critic on, well, you name it.

It makes you wonder whether the Sun’s literary editor actually read the piece before it was cleared for publication.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 25.03.07 at 12:50
As I think I may have said before, the habit of keeping an online diary, or blogging, can have amazing results. One of them is that a reader can immediately register his or her reactions to a published piece minutes after he or she reads it. And, what's more, there is a reasonable chance that what he or she writes will be read by others who are reading the same piece. Here, for instance, we have veteran diarist, or blogger, John Shaw (http://thatsoundsgood.net/rt_home.html) sounding off, under the blog name uTopian TurtleTop (http://utopianturtletop.blogspot.com/), about Clive’s essay on Rainer Maria Rilke (http://www.slate.com/id/2162552?nav=tap3), which was published in Slate on Friday the 23rd March.


Quote:
Clive James on Rilke gets things wrong (http://utopianturtletop.blogspot.com/2007/03/clive-james-on-rilke-gets-things-wrong.html)


Who is Clive James? I don’t know. He writes for Slate; or, rather, Slate is paying him to adapt chapters from his book Cultural Amnesia, which I haven’t read; nor have I read the excerpts before, but I’m interested in Rilke and Brecht -- this week’s topic.

What James gets wrong may not be a big deal, but it’s so lazy, it’s embarrassing.

He says that Rilke wrote the Duino Elegies in Schloss Duino in 1923.

No.

Rilke began the Duino Elegies in Schloss Duino in 1912. And he worked on them intermittently for 10 years and finished them elsewhere, in 1922.

If you know Clive James, would you tell him, please?

He mentions owning a 5-foot shelf of Rilke books. I almost said he “boasts” of it, but it’s not a literary boast; he brags about how they look, not about their wonderfulness:


By now I have a 5-foot shelf of books just by Rilke himself, let alone of books about  him; and still there is no end in sight. I could never throw the stuff away. It looks too good.

Culture as acquisition: bragging about the books he owns but doesn’t necessarily read. It seems to me that such a vision of culture is not unrelated to amnesia -- or maybe his title should be Cultural Sleepwalking.

This quote is straight out of the dumb-assiest American political blah blah blah circa Y2K:
Rilke had too much civilization, just as Brecht had too little:

Their matching deviations from normality make both of them toxic company. Take the two together and you barely end up with one man you would want to have a drink with.


Now, I wouldn’t trust Brecht, and I’m not sure I would trust Rilke either, but they were both brilliant minds and extremely accomplished artists. But Clive James wouldn’t want to talk with them. They’re too deviant. Conversation is not a cite for intellectual challenge or play. Evidently it is a place to have one’s prejudices confirmed. Artists are valuable for marking the limits of the norm; they’re exotic, toxic specimens, to be kept at a distance.

His view of what he is obviously touting as “high culture” is: It’s that stuff they taught at college that you should know just well enough to banter condescendingly about over a drink; nothing to try to engage with on its own terms, nothing to pay the respect of trying to understand or remember, nothing to wrestle with, nothing to worry about.

Like the kids used to say, whatever, dude. As Rilke said . . .

You must change your life.


NB. The Duineser Elegien (The Duino Elegies) were indeed composed between 1912-1922.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Keith Busby on 25.03.07 at 16:04
The mailman delivered my copy of Cultural Amnesia (publication date in US: 19 March) hot from Amazon.com yesterday. As for 1923, I believe this is the publication date of the Duineser Elegien, which I read as an undergraduate (not in 1923), and which left me a gibbering wreck. But what an opening line:

Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel Ordnungen?

God bless the subjunctive.

Mr Shaw seems to be a little short on irony, not too mention too lazy to Google Clive James. And his music is awful.

Grüsse aus der neuen Welt.

Keith

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Jan on 25.03.07 at 17:49

on 03/25/07 at 16:04:36, Keith Busby wrote :
As for 1923, I believe this is the publication date of the Duineser Elegien, which I read as an undergraduate


There is no record of any UK research library holding an edition published before 1923.
Jan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by S J Birkill on 25.03.07 at 18:52
Kevin quotes John Shaw on Clive on Rilke:


Quote:
He mentions owning a 5-foot shelf of Rilke books. I almost said he "boasts" of it, but it's not a literary boast; he brags about how they look, not about their wonderfulness:

By now I have a 5-foot shelf of books just by Rilke himself, let alone of books about him; and still there is no end in sight. I could never throw the stuff away. It looks too good.

Perhaps Shaw skimmed the essay, just to be impolite. Clive isn't bragging about his metre-and-a-half, he's remarking on the Rilke industry, the churning out by the Verlag of volumes in a continuation of Rilke's own mannered exquisiteness, that in bulk can't help but look so damned gorgeous on the shelf. Boastful this isn't: he goes on to say that "somewhere in the middle of it all is the relatively thin sheaf of poetry that justifies the bustle."

I can't tell whether Shaw's reading of the alleged Brecht+Rilke toxicity is right, but he does seem to be historically correct on the Duino dates. Indeed, Clive stated quite specifically "...in his annus mirabilis of 1922, when he wrote all of The Sonnets to Orpheus and all of The Duino Elegies" [my emphasis], which doesn't seem to refer to publication date.

SJB

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 25.03.07 at 18:57
Hi Keith,

It was, as Jan has confirmed, 1923 that saw the first publication of the Duino Elegies. But Shaw is correct  in his spotting of Clive's factual error. Clive definitely says Rilke wrote all of the Duino Elegies in 1923, and that factual error to some extent, I feel, damages the point he is making.


Quote:

Showing signs of believing that he had arrived at the apotheosis of art, he ascended to the empyrean in his annus mirabilis of 1923, when he wrote all of The Sonnets to Orpheus and all of The Duino Elegies


By the way, I do not think that every reader, unless they have some knowledge of German, will understand why God should bless the subjunctive.

Let me see if I, whose knowledge of German comes from reading either parallel texts, or reading with the German text and a German to English dictionary in the other. The line "Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel Ordnungen?” is usually translated into English as "Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angelic orders." The "if I cried out" suggests the the speaker may very well cry out. Put into the  subjunctive mood (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subjunctive_mood) the "if  I cried out" becomes something like "were I to cry out" which changes the whole tone of what's being said.

If I've got that right, I thank God for the Latin.

Grüße aus der Alten Welt


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Ian Chippett on 25.03.07 at 19:13
However, in "Unreliable Memoirs" Clive wrote "In many ways Rilke was a prick."

Ian C

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by S J Birkill on 25.03.07 at 20:46
Here's a mystery: I thought I'd made a typo in quoting Clive on Rilke's annus mirabilis of "1922" when I saw Kevin quote "1923". So I looked at the Slate version and found that it too says "1923"; as does Shaw.

But... going back to my US Norton edition, foot of Page 612, I see "...he ascended to the empyrean in his annus mirabilis of 1922..."!

So... are Kevin Cryan and John Shaw reading from a prerelease of the Picador (UK) edition, which has had one of Norton's famous typos corrected, or is everyone propagating an error? I could understand Clive mistakenly attributing the creation of the Elegies to their publication date (1923), so where did my edition's "1922" come from?

It does seem that The Sonnets to Orpheus were written in an astonishing two-week period in February 1922, so this fits with Clive's annus mirabilis claim for that year. Given that he seems to have slipped up on dating the Elegies, isn't it strange that we have a further discrepancy?

Steve

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Keith Busby on 25.03.07 at 21:34
Correct, Kevin. "schriee" (bisyllabic) is the past subjunctive (Konjunktiv II), as is "hörte". The line has posed all kinds of problems for translators, mainly because of this, and because "hören", even without a preposition, can imply "listen" as well as "hear". For me, Rilke was a poet who had to be parsed, pretty much word-for-word, in order to bring out all the richness and ambiguity.

Keith

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 26.03.07 at 06:13
Hi Steve,

Shaw's an my "1923" came from the Slate printing. In checking into how Clive could have made the mistake, I found that all sources I happened on, including this one (http://www.enotes.com/lit-calendar/year/1923) said 1923. The Chatto and Windus (translation and introduction J.B. Leishman & Stephen Spender) copy I have got is not helpful in that it used as its source, not original editions, but a variety of Rilke collections.

And, incidentally, I do think that Clive's (or his editor's) getting it wrong does seriously damage the point he is making. Admirers of Rilke would say that if he cannot get the facts right, he cannot possibly make the extravagent claims he does.


Kevin Cryan



Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 26.03.07 at 06:37
The concluding paragraph of Richard Eder's mostly glowing review (http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2007/03/25/not_going_gentle/) in yesterday's Boston Globe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Boston_Globe)
Runs thus:

Quote:
"Cultural Amnesia," with its encyclopedic length and organization and the intense jostle of its ideas, is not to be read at a sitting. It is to be dipped into over weeks and months. If the dipper occasionally brings up exasperation, it brings up astonished delight far more often; and, best of all, exasperated astonished delight.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 29.03.07 at 08:58
Clive is introduced to guests (http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/party_hopping/scene_clive_james_book_party_55880.asp?c=rss) at a party thrown for him by Slate editor Jacob Weisberg to celebrate the publication of Cultural Amnesia.  


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 30.03.07 at 12:00

on 03/09/07 at 17:48:46, Kevin Cryan wrote :
The April edition of The Atlantic* (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Atlantic_Monthly) (also known as The Atlantic Monthly) contains a Christopher Hitchins (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Hitchens) penned review of Clive's Cultural Amnesia.

This is available from The Atlantic online (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200704/hitchens-cultural-amnesia) now, but only to those who subscribe, or agree to subscribe, to that august journal.


Kevin Cryan


*One of The Atlantic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Atlantic_Monthly)'s associate editors Ross Douthat (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/by/ross_douthat), who co-writes on newsletter-style online diary called The American Scene (http://www.theamericanscene.com/), yesterday posted this recommendation in the diary.
_______________________________________________________________

Killing Him Softly (http://www.theamericanscene.com/2007/03/killing-him-softly-almost-everything.php) : Almost everything Clive James writes is excellent, of course, but his assessment (http://www.slate.com/id/2162891/) of Jean-Paul Sartre simply overflows with near-perfect put-downs. For instance:

In Sartre's style of argument, German metaphysics met French sophistry in a kind of European Coal and Steel Community producing nothing but rhetorical gas.

Or again:

. . . he was debarred by nature from telling the truth for long about anything that mattered, because telling the truth was something that ordinary men did, and his urge to be extraordinary was, for him, more of a motive force than merely to see the world as it was.

Or still again:

Sartre was called profound because he sounded as if he was either that or nothing, and few cared to say that they thought him nothing.

Read the whole thing (http://www.slate.com/id/2162891). And savor it.

Ross Douthat: 3/29/2007 :: 0 comments

Comments

Post a comment (http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=5023078&postID=117518462643907458)
_______________________________________________



Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 30.03.07 at 19:20
Cultural Amnesia gets a not altogether approving review (http://www.villagevoice.com/books/0714,indiana,76229,10.html) from The Village Voice (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Village_Voice) veteran Gary Indiana (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Indiana) - no, not that Gary Indiana (http://images.google.co.uk/images?q=gary+indiana&hl=en&rls=RNWE,RNWE:2005-28,RNWE:en&um=1&sa=X&oi=images&ct=title)


Quote:


James's potted lives are sincere attempts to convey ideas that shaped this civilization, but perhaps the snap, crackle, and pop approach instilled by a career in television accounts for his habit of miniaturizing figures he disagrees with and hyperinflating his personal heroes. James can expound his subjects' accomplishments without oversimplification; what he can't do, apparently, is interrogate his own broad assumptions and prejudices.

When he wishes to denigrate a writer, artist, philosopher, or what have you, he refuses them any quarter; he writes more positive things about Hitler than he does about Celine. That someone can be a shit in private and one of the world's most formidable writers, concert pianists, philosophers, or anything else in public is one of the many contradictions we have to live with, hold the humanism on that BLT


For full review click here (http://www.villagevoice.com/books/0714,indiana,76229,10.html)


I wonder what Norman Mailer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Mailer), one of the founders of The Villiage Voice , thinks. I'd be willing to bet that the old boy - who likes nothing better than a literary punch-up - is giving nods of approval to Clive's "refuse them any quarter" approach.

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 30.03.07 at 20:31
Richard King (http://www2.blogger.com/profile/07153784556048512736) writing in today's issue (http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/news/book-reviews/cultural-amnesia-notes-in-the-margin-of-my-time/2007/03/30/1174761729353.htm) of  Brisbane Times (http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/) 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.    


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 31.03.07 at 09:48

on 03/30/07 at 20:31:15, Kevin Cryan wrote :
Richard King (http://www2.blogger.com/profile/07153784556048512736) writing in today's issue (http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/news/book-reviews/cultural-amnesia-notes-in-the-margin-of-my-time/2007/03/30/1174761729353.htm) * of  Brisbane Times (http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/)................................................


Kevin Cryan


*Correction:Faulty link corrected to today's issue (http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/news/book-reviews/cultural-amnesia-notes-in-the-margin-of-my-time/2007/03/30/1174761729353.html)


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 31.03.07 at 15:12
Update

Our Australian friends might like to know that Richard King’s review (http://richardjking.blogspot.com/2007/03/bloody-crossroads-sydney-morning-herald.html) of Cultural Amnesia which was published by Brisbane Times was also published in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald (http://www.smh.com.au/news/book-reviews/cultural-amnesia-notes-in-the-margin-of-my-time/2007/03/30/1174761729353.html) and in the March the 30th  edition (http://www.theage.com.au/news/book-reviews/cultural-amnesia-notes-in-the-margin-of-my-time/2007/03/30/1174761732592.html) of the Melbourne broadsheet The Age (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Age).


Kevin Cryan




Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 01.04.07 at 19:10
The Washington Post (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Post)has just published an interview (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/01/AR2007040100331.html) Clive gave to Mark Egan of Reuters (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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?


Kevin Cryan

Title: Charles de Gaulle, Bush and Clive
Post by BogusTrumper on 04.04.07 at 01:29
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-gardels/on-iraq-bush-should-foll_b_44902.html

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.




Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Keith Busby on 04.04.07 at 15:01
Amen to that, Bogus. And no-one could accuse AWOL Dubya and his draft-dodging veep of having De Gaulle's military experience.

Keith

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by BogusTrumper on 04.04.07 at 16:43
I agree, but I posted it more out of amazement that Clive's book made it to the pages of Huffington Post  :D

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Keith Busby on 04.04.07 at 19:23
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.

Keith

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 04.04.07 at 21:43
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.

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 05.04.07 at 07:26
One of The Wall Street Journal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wall_Street_Journal)'s drama critics, Terry Teachout (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Teachout), made this glowing contribution (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/contentions/index.php/teachout/317) to contentions (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/contentions/index.php/about-us/), a community blog offshoot of Commentary (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/cm/main/mainHome.aip) 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
.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 05.04.07 at 11:42
Clive's Slate essay on Leon Trotsky (http://www.slate.com/id/2163048/) has already generated some stimulating comments in various quarters. The Times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Times) Comment editor Daniel Finkelstein has made space (http://timesonline.typepad.com/comment/2007/04/slate_has_been_.html) in his April the 2nd column to draw attention to it, and in his online diary entry (http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/2007/04/trotskys_legacy.html) the columnist (he'll not approve of my creating a link to wikipedia) Oliver Kamm (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Orwell).


Kevin Cryan


Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 07.04.07 at 11:38
In today’s edition of The New York Times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Times), the columnist Liesl Schillinger (http://www.pfdny.com/authors/schillil/) her review of Cultural Amnesia - a  “capacious and capricious encyclopedia of essays” (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/08/books/review/Schillinger.t.html?ref=books), 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
.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 09.04.07 at 12:26
The baseball writer, book-reviewer and social critic, Allen Barra, has contributed to the latest edition of the web-based magazine Salon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salon.com)  a detailed critique (http://www.salon.com/books/review/2007/04/09/clive_james/index_np.html) 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 (http://dir.salon.com/story/books/review/2005/10/04/wilson/index.html)'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 (http://www.salon.com/bc/1999/02/09bc.html) 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 (http://www.panmacmillan.com/titles/displayPage.asp?PageTitle=Individual%20Title&BookID=375812&Category=)) - 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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 10.04.07 at 10:32
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 (http://www.powells.com/review/2007_04_10.html) for the time being.

As I have no idea how long Powells.com (http://www.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.

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 11.04.07 at 07:01
Cultural Amnesia gets a mostly favourable review (http://www.citypaper.com/arts/review.asp?rid=11645) from short-story writer and music critic Michaelangelo Matos (http://m-matos.blogspot.com/) in today's edition of Baltimore (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore,_Maryland)'s very sensibly named Baltimore City Paper (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore_City_Paper).


Kevin Cryan



Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 12.04.07 at 09:36
'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 (http://www.journalnow.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=WSJ%2FMGArticle%2FWSJ_RelishArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1173350632314&path=!entertainment!general!&s=1037645508970) in this week's Relish (http://www.journalnow.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=WSJ%2FPage%2FWSJ_RelishMain&c=Page&cid=1038852833402), the weekly arts, entertainment and social magazine produced under the umbrella of the Winston–Salem Journal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.  

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 13.04.07 at 08:13
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 (http://www.slate.com/id/2164046/pagenum/2/) on the philosopher Ludwig Witttgenstein (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Wittgenstein).

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.  


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Ian Chippett on 13.04.07 at 17:21
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.

Ian C

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 14.04.07 at 19:26
Tonight at 7pm Eastern time (12pm this side of the Atlantic) on C-SPAN2 (http://www.c-span.org/watch/cspan2.asp?Cat=TV&Code=CS2)’s* Book TV (http://www.booktv.org/about/) you can watch (http://www.booktv.org/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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C-SPAN) (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.


Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by BogusTrumper on 14.04.07 at 21:21
Thanks for the info.  I will set the DVR!

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by BogusTrumper on 15.04.07 at 00:40
It is all Clive for an hour, recorded at NY Library MArch 26th.

And he is very, very good

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 15.04.07 at 11:35
It can be watched (http://www.booktv.org/watch/) again tomorrow morning (http://www.booktv.org/History/index.asp?segID=8019&schedID=483) at 5:30am our time.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Pete Atkin on 15.04.07 at 15:30
High time, I think, that someone thanked Kevin for keeping us so well up with the transatlantic progress of 'Cultural Amnesia'.   I must say I wondered what the advantage might be in releasing the book first in the US, given that Clive has a relatively low profile there, but I now think I understand.   Clive's US lack of other-media baggage -- added to most Americans' comparative lack of suspicion of or prejudice against people who can do more than one thing well -- has meant he's been taken far more seriously, it seems to me, and the book received on its own terms.   I'm sure he'll be steeling himself already for a rather different response when it's published here next month.

I've been hopping about through my copy of the American edition (remarkably easy to get hold of through Amazon Markeplace), and I think it's worth underlining Kevin's point that in spite of its size and weight -- physical and metaphorical -- and of the number of unfamiliar names in its list of subjects, it is not in the least bit daunting.   It was always intended in any case to be a book to be consumed piecemeal.   Reading it makes me feel lucky in at least three different ways, none of them to do with knowing Clive personally.

I've read only about a quarter of it so far, I suppose, but I have come across a surprising number of typos:  not a lot, but that there are any at all is what's surprising in a book like this.  I bet Clive's furious - as with getting the W.C.Fields quote slightly wrong (I'm afraid I nerdily went and checked the DVD, such a wrong note did it strike).  

But don't hesitate.  And don't take any notice of anything negative that anyone may say:  this book will enhance your life.  It may, after all, be Clive's greatest achievement.   It's also possible that he has, improbable as it may seem, invented a wholly new kind of book - but not one that will have many emulators.  The reviewer who described it as a kind of "annotated commonplace book" is as close to summing it up in a phrase as it's possible to get.

So thanks again, Kevin.

Pete

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 16.04.07 at 13:37
There is no thanks necessary, Pete. Keeping tabs on the reception Cultural Amnesia is getting in America was never much of chore, and certainly not one for which I ever expected to be thanked. It has always seemed to me that a good way of reading a book like this - or reading extracts from it, as I am - is to check with other readers, or in this case professional critics and people who publish online,  to see how they are reading or responding to it.

Occasionally it's a method that can raise some bizarre questions and send this reader on some rather odd detours. For instance, a couple of weeks ago I was asking myself why Peter G. Klein (http://web.missouri.edu/~kleinp/) , who is, among other things Assistant Professor in the Division of Applied Social Sciences at the University of Missouri and Associate Director of the Contracting and Organizations Research Institute (CORI), would find Clive’s piece on Jean-Paul Sartre (http://www.slate.com/id/2162891/pagenum/all) interesting enough to post to the Organizations and Markets blog (http://organizationsandmarkets.com/2007/04/03/pomo-periscope-xi-clive-james-on-sartre/) he co-writes with Nicolai Foss (http://www.nicolaifoss.com/) of Copenhagen Business School.  My initial conclusion was that he mistakenly thought that the piece was written by this man (http://www.monsanto.com/biotech-gmo/asp/experts.asp?id=CliveJames). A little more research, however, revealed that the good the professor and his blogging partner are always on the lookout for pieces postmodern (?) thinking that impact on their shared interests.

However, the method, I find, can generally be far more rewarding than that. For example, now that I have some of the American scholar Dale B. Light (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0268016526?tag=lightseekingl-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=0268016526&adid=0XXZB70TV6MJ96C5QWF2&)'s hastily posted  recorded thoughts (http://lightseekinglight.blogspot.com/2007/04/clive-james-on-art-and-reality.html) while watching Clive on C-SPAN to hand,  I find myself considering more carefully than I might have what Clive is saying about the relationship between art and life.
 

Monday, April 16, 2007
Clive James on Art and Reality (http://lightseekinglight.blogspot.com/2007/04/clive-james-on-art-and-reality.html)

I'm watching Clive James on C-Span talking about his new book Cultural Amnesia. Very entertaining, and even stimulating, but a bit sloppy and enormously self-indulgent.

I like the guy. He hates Sartre even more than I do.

He just misquoted Auden, saying "art makes nothing happen" Auden actually wrote "poetry makes nothing happen "here (http://search.able2know.com/About/4033.html), and James seems content to note that quoting poetry does not stop the tank from rolling over you.

James is here positing a radical dissociation between art and the material world. He reinforces this point when he quotes Theodor Adorno to the effect that after Auschwitz there was no possibility of lyric poetry, then notes out that obviously lyric poetry is being produced everywhere. He takes satisfaction in noting that Adorno's statement was so wrong it was "not even false."

Now, I myself have a strong aversion to Adorno and the whole Frankfurt School, although I respect the integrity of their effort to explain the incomprehensible horror of the Holocaust, but the link between art and existence Adorno intuited was not just a fantasy.

That is something Nelson Mandela affirmed when he wrote:
Poetry cannot block a bullet or still a sjambok, but it can bear witness to brutality -- thereby cultivating a flower in a graveyard.

here (http://www2.wwnorton.com/catalog/backlist/030976.htm)

And here is where I lose patience with Clive James. He is far too dismissive in his judgments. I can sit and nod in agreement as he savages Sartre or Coltrane, but at the back of my mind a small voice is saying, "but there's more to it than that."

You can check out selections from James' latest book at Slate magazine

here (http://www.slate.com/id/2159088/).


"># posted by D. B. Light : 1:23 AM


Light's online jottings - and really that's all they are-  are a little confused and confusing, but that very confusion is enough make make me all the more alert to to the nuances of what Clive is actually saying, and that, to my mind, can be no bad thing.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 17.04.07 at 07:14
Cultural Amnesia has been chosen by Micheal H.Cognato (http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/Bloggers) for the What We're Reading (http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/node/4421) section of the current edition of the bi-monthly Foreign Policy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_Policy).

•      Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts (http://www.amazon.com/Cultural-Amnesia-Necessary-Memories-History/dp/0393061167/). Clive James has put together a showcase of the most consequential thinkers of the 20th century, from Duke Ellington to Adolph Hitler. The era's totalitarianisms loom large, but are overshadowed by those who saw through their lies. Reading it is a great substitute for actually being well-read oneself, and reading the many selected excerpts at Slate (http://www.slate.com/id/2159088/) is even better.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Keith Busby on 17.04.07 at 14:50
I caught part of the C-SPAN2 Book TV show on Saturday and, as Bogus reports, Clive was in fine fettle, obviously enjoying himself. In contrast, the rather ponderous host (director of public programs for the New York Public Library, whose name escapes me) refused to crack a smile while Clive was chortling away. But he had done his homework and did challenge Clive on various points, in particular his apparent dislike of Walter Benjamin.

Keith

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 17.04.07 at 15:05
Not that it makes a lot of difference, but his name is Paul Holdengräber.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by S J Birkill on 17.04.07 at 15:21
Now this is good! Archive now available -- I'm watching it now, here (http://www.booktv.org/feature/index.asp?schedid=483&segid=8019).

Steve

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 18.04.07 at 07:10
Clive's essay on Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (http://www.slate.com/id/2164374), the Harvard educated Japanese commander who planned and executed the attack on Pearl Harbour (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearl_Harbor) and who was leading the Japanese navy when it suffered a what turned out to be a decisive defeat in the the battle of Midway (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Midway) is now available on the Slade site.



Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 19.04.07 at 21:25
A few things that Clive says in his Slate essay on Wittgenstein (http://www.slate.com/id/2164046/?nav=navoa) have been puzzling me. This, for instance.

He received credit for giving away the large amount of money he had inherited, and thus detaching himself from his social privileges and from the involvements and distractions of everyday life. But he also detached himself from everyday life by ignoring what was going on in Europe.


It’s true that in 1913 Wittgenstein donated a large fortune he’d  inherited when his father died to Austrian artists and writers, including Rainer Maria Rilke and Georg Trakl, and for that he deservedly got some credit.

However the credit he got later, and the credit I think Clive has in mind, - the cerdit he got  for “giving away a large amout of  and detaching himself from his social priveleges and from  the distractions of everyday life” - was probably not as well deserved, since he gave it to members of his family, whom he believed, because they were rich already, were less likely to be corrupted by it than the poor. He certainly deserves credit for the detachment he longed for, but its difficult to say that his giving the money away was an altogether creditworthy act.

And anyway later, when some  of his family wished to continue living in Austria under the Nazis, he showed that he’d not altogether forgotten that the family had the money to buy it self the greatest “privilege” the Nazis could offer Jews – life. It he who played a pivotal role in persuading his brother Paul to agree part with a large part of the family fortune (gold which, it is said, would fetch somwhere around £13 million pounds today) the get  the family classified as Mischling (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mischling), a group of, as the Nazis saw it, Aryan/Jewish mongrels (http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/chi-020811witt-graphic,1,7725278.graphic??track=sto-relcon&coll=chi-entertainment-utl&ctrack=1&cset=true), whose treatment would be less brutal than that reserved for Jews.


This brings me to the second thing that I find puzzling about Clives piece. He says:

During World War II, he voluntarily served as a hospital porter in London and a lab assistant in Newcastle, but he never said anything in print about the Nazis. Apart from the Tractatus, all his books, collected from notes made from his lectures, were published posthumously. No student should miss the key work of his second phase, Philosophical Investigations (1953), but not even in that otherwise electrifying book is there any sense of current events. His silence might not have been an act of will. It could have been that words failed him. There is evidence, however, that when he finally saw photographs of the hideous aftermath in the concentration camps, he forgot his famous rule about being silent on issues of which one cannot speak and broke down in tears. But in the few years left to him before his death from cancer, he still resolutely declined to say anything specific about the era he had lived through. He had helped to shape it, but only by ignoring it.

I can think of a one good reason why he chose to remain silent during the war. The Nazis could no be trusted, and no amount of money, he was only too aware,  would make them trustworthy. He had family still living in Austria and he  could never be certain that if he were to speak out the Nazi’s wouldn’t  just conveniently forget the deal and take revenge out on them.

We can only speculate why he choose to remain silent after the war. Guilt probably. After all, the wealthy Jewish Wittgenstein family had survived the brutalities of the Nazis  by the simple expedient of bribing them while a great many other Austrian Jews perished. Only a small percentage of Austrian Jews survived the war,  and for Wittgenstein to have said anything about what had befallen the Austria, the Austrian Jews or indeed about the whole Nazi era would have probably raised more questions – mostly ones about him and his family – than it would have answered.  Also, I feel that Wittgenstein had a certain loftiness about him which maintained that only those things he thought worth discussing were actually worth discussing. Could it be that to him the rise and fall on Nazism was just another distraction of everyday life?  



Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 20.04.07 at 07:35
This is taken from the online diary of Andrés Hax* who appears to  blog weekly summaries (http://sumariossemanales.blogspot.com/2007/04/productos-la-revista-new-yorker-tiene.html) (Sumarios Semanales) of items that appear in magazines published in New York.

Hay una linda serie de notas en la revista Slate (http://www.slate.com/id/2162552/). Son tomadas del libro de Clive James, Cultural Amnesia, que reevalúa varias figuras culturales del siglo XX (Es en el clásico formato A-Z). Esta semana, Rainer Maria Rilke.

It's good to see that it's Clive's book is reaching an audience whose main language is not English. How about Touch Has a Memory for the Argentinean market?


Kevin Cryan


*Andrés Hax, is a journalist who makes frequent contributions to Argentina's main newspaper Clarín (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clar%C3%ADn_%28newspaper%29).

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 20.04.07 at 22:23
One of the oldest and most respected litblogs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Litblog) (blogs devoted to soley to literature) the complete review (http://www.complete-review.com/main/main.html) has been sampling some of the reviews (http://www.complete-review.com/reviews/divlitnf/jamesc.htm#summaries) Cultural Amnesia has been getting and has written a review of its own (http://www.complete-review.com/reviews/divlitnf/jamesc.htm#ours) of the book. It makes an interesting read, and it has the benefit of gathering rather tidily together some of the things that have appeared piecemeal here.

People who come to this litblog for the first time get a little worried that the reviewers in it retain anonymity. Those who are worried about this should remember that when Clive began his contributions Times Literary Supplement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Times_Literary_Supplement) reviews there  were normally anonymous. Anonymity does have its benefits for the reader. Generally, it turns the  ‘well, this or that reviewer would say that’ into a question of ‘why would he/she say that?’, a question being, in my experience, always better than a presumption, in that it opens up possibilities rather than closing them down.    


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 22.04.07 at 19:45
William Georgiades (http://www.wgeorgiades.com/cgi-bin/view.cgi?n=/) has chosen Cultural Amnesia as one of the recommendations (http://www.nypost.com/seven/04222007/entertainment/required_reading_entertainment_william_georgiades.htm) to be included in the Required Reading column he wrote for today’s New York Post (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Post)

More or less unqualified praise, and from the Murdoch press too. Whatever next?

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 27.04.07 at 07:47
William Deresiewicz (http://www.yale.edu/english/profiles/deresiewicz.html) has written a long and perceptive review (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070514/deresiewicz) of Cultural Amnesia in yesterday's issue of The Nation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nation).

It's for very good and obvious reasons headed Café Society, but, bearing in mind that it is written for an American readers, many of whom will not be familiar with Clive's writing, I believe it could just as easily and as usefully be called Introducing Clive James.

If you consider these remarks, I think you'll see what I mean:

His imagined reader is a young intellectual making his or her start in culture the way the author himself did half a century ago, and James offers a steady stream of advice on how to go about the business of self-education: must-reads and how-tos, anecdotes and exemplars. One of his highest terms of praise is "he figured it out for himself."
-------

In James's cosmology, the university is the infernal (and infertile) counterpart to the paradise of the cafe. Humanism means interconnection, and the cafe gives that interconnection social form. Academia necessitates specialization and incessantly discourages intellectual breadth (now more than ever, no matter how much lip service is paid to "interdisciplinarity")
-------

Cultural Amnesia is an extended defense of literary journalism as occupying not only an honorable place within the hierarchy of cultural discourse but the supreme one. For journalism demands both simplicity and compression, and compression makes language glow. James's stylistic models are writers like Altenberg, who could "pour a whole view of life, a few cupfuls at a time, into the briefest of paragraphs." His highest hero, "the voice behind the [book's] voices" (and one of several exceptions to his rule of writing only about twentieth-century figures), is Tacitus. It was Tacitus who wrote the sentence out of which the entire volume grew: "They make a desert and they call it peace." James heard the line quoted as a young man and "saw straight away that a written sentence could sound like a spoken one, but have much more in it."


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 29.04.07 at 19:36
Ilan Stavans (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilan_Stavans) in his review (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/04/29/RVGUJPCRAU1.DTL) for the San Francisco Chronicle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Francisco_Chronicle) says that while Clive, “as expected, displays his intellectual virtuosity with gusto …the result is, for the most part, rambling and misconstrued, mainly because he has too much to say and no parameters to measure it against”

To prove that this is not another academic who resents Clive’s encroaching on what he sees as his sole preserve, I quote the ending of his review in its entirety:

In 2003, a gathering of his essential pieces was published in book form under the title "As of This Writing*." I treasure it dearly. His piece on Galway Kinnell's poem "The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ Into the New World" is terrific, as are his meditations on Raymond Chandler, Susan Sontag, Vladimir Nabokov and Hamlet. But I'm afraid he's become too pompous, too self-aggrandizing for his own good. Does James believe he's a modern Virgil? Come on, do we really need a directory of luminaries such as this when Wikipedia delivers equally idiosyncratic comments at our fingertips?

Ah, the hubris of critics ... Is that the reason why the species is quickly becoming extinct? Whatever happened to intellectual humility?


Kevin Cryan

*Details about As of This Writing (http://www.amazon.com/As-This-Writing-Essential-1968-2002/dp/0393051803) will be found here (http://www.clivejames.com/recent-books)

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 30.04.07 at 11:05
In Cultural Amnesia Clive argues convincingly that there are certain intellectuals such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida who do not deserve the reputations they have. In tonight's edition of Radio 3's Night Waves (21:45-22:30), Fashionable Intellectuals (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/nightwaves/pip/qvjsu/), Matthew Sweet and guests discuss the not unrelated question why those very same intellectuals "become globally fashionable, inspiring not just scholarly studies but biographical books, hagiographic films and even fashion items?"

It will be interesting to see whether Sweet and co (I'm here presuming Clive is not one of the guests) come close to the explanation Clive has been giving for some time, and which did find fairly full expression in a December 2001 interview (http://www.abc.net.au/rn/arts/atoday/stories/s351989.htm)he gave to ABC Radio National (http://www.abc.net.au/rn/)'s Michael Cathcart:

Michael Cathcart Now on another issue, Clive, you're very critical of what you call the busy but essentially vacuous theorising that's taken over university departments of English, which you associated with "the obscurantism of the French left". How do you account for this fascination with French theory that's .

Clive James: I think it probably began in occupied Paris during the war where the Nazis introduced such a moral confusion into the French intellegentsia, mainly by letting the French intelligentsia continue to write its books and put on its plays - as long as they didn't mention certain facts that the Nazis didn't want mentioned. And bad faith was sown into the French intelligentsia, and the temptation to develop a language where they would be absolved from meaning what they said, and the result was a great growth in critical theory. We didn't go into the finer points of it, we didn't even mention names, names like Lacan and Derrida, I scarcely know how to pronounce, I can't read what they write and can't pronounce their names. But they did have a huge worldwide influence because they offered one big advantage - especially to soft-option faculties in the universities across the world - they removed the element of talent from criticism. You didn't have to be talented to teach this stuff. You barely had to be sensitive to literature.

Nobody knows what a literary theoretician sounds like when he's failing. He or she, they all sound the same, if you can't tell when it's bad you're in the ideal position if you want employment. And I think that's the secret of the success of theory, is that anyone can teach it and anyone can pass the exam, all you have to do is memorise it. But the trouble is, it doesn't mean very much and it's dealing in a subject of literature that's dealing with something that means everything, meaning a lot is what literature sets out to do, and a system of study which studies literature and ends up meaning very little is a contradiction in terms.

And I've got a satirical attitude towards it, my funny-bone was the first thing to react. People were talking nonsense and getting paid for it, that's always funny.  


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 07.05.07 at 20:06
The reading of Clive’s Cultural Amnesia has prompted Professor Richard J. Cox (http://www2.sis.pitt.edu/~rcox/), who is Professor in Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Information Sciences, to ponder what he calls the joys of and value in rereading books (http://readingarchives.blogspot.com/2007/05/rereading-and-reflecting-about-archives.html).

He is writing for and about professional archivists, but what he has to say is, I believe, so relevant to readers in general that I’ll quote it in full.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Rereading and Reflecting about Archives

Many literary studies scholars have written about the joys of and value in rereading books. Sven Birkerts, in his Reading Life: Books for the Ages (Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 2007) is a recent example of such writing. Birkerts suggests that the “decision to re-read a book is not usually an amnesiac’s search for clues about what is lost. More likely it is prompted by some kind flaring up of memory, by a longing to be immersed again in a feeling that we know as important, gratifying, or somehow defining. We return, often, out of curiosity, no question, but also in the hope that something will be given back to us, or reawakened” (p. 22).

Funny, you don’t hear or read about archivists re-reading, for nearly any reasons, their archival classics. There are classics, of course, acknowledged by the Society of American Archivists (SAA) re-issuing a number of them in recent years. SAA hopes, for sure, that someone will go back and read these volumes. Archival educators are using them. Students are being required to read them. No one is musing about these kinds of classics as Birkerts does, and that is too bad.

Personally, I think this is because few archivists read their professional literature, at least in the same fashion that they may read other essays and volumes. Instead, they consult the archival manuals or surf the World Wide Web or post a question to one of their listservs – always looking for some practical insight or answer to a specific query. Maybe this is because many archivists take seriously that they are practicing some kind of science.

Clive James, in his massive Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 2007), perhaps gets to the substance of the problem: “Science lives in a perpetual present,” James muses, “and must always discard its own past as it advances. (If a contemporary thermodynamicist refers to the literature on phlogiston, he will do so as a humanist, not as a scientist. Nor did Edwin Hubble need to know about Ptolemy, although he did.) The humanities do not advance in that sense: they accumulate, and the past is always retained. The two forms of knowledge thus have fundamentally different kinds of history. A scientists can revisit the history of the humanities all the time, because it is always alive, and can’t be superseded” (p. 117). I always wince a bit when I hear references to archival science, not because I deny the need for rigor and research, but because I always sense that there is a present-mindedness weakening the kind of reading and re-reading I think is necessary for archivists to do.

James, by the way, in bringing together his forty years of ruminations on philosophy, history, politics, and the arts and his reading of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and essays, has this to offer about the nature of reading: “I have not read everything, nor have I remembered everything I have read. What I tried to do was keep some of it with me and draw lessons from it” (p. 848). That pretty much summarizes why and how I read.
posted by Richard J. Cox @ 9:45 PM


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by David Morgan on 08.05.07 at 17:46
As an (ex-)scientist, I would take issue with Clive's assertion that science lives in a perpetual present. I know what he means, and for some areas of scientific thought it might hold true. But in the most fundamental of the sciences - physics - practitioners have always struggled with multiple models and approximations to describe and explain different natural phenomena. They build on those models as they go along, sometimes knocking old ones down - but often knocking them down only in part. For example, we still use Newton's 300-year-old models for most everyday purposes in science and engineering, despite Einstein having shown that those models were approximations. Science certainly hasn't stopped using Newton's work, and the same goes for the various giants on whose shoulders he said he was standing.

Today physicists still have to use different, partly contradictory, theories and models to explain and work with various observations: quantum mechanics and relativity theory provide good examples of the contradictions. Every model has its limits, and finds things that it can't explain. Of course the great minds (most famously Stephen Hawking) are hunting for a unifying theory to underpin everything: if they find it - and that's a big 'if' - then maybe Clive's observation will become true. But until that happens then the accumulation of past thought and ideas is arguably as important in physics as in the humanities.

Is there a prize for most off-topic post ever???

David M


Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 09.05.07 at 08:59
Clive and Jack Beatty (http://www.theatlantic.com/about/people/jbbio.htm) Senior editor of Atlantic Monthly were guests on WBUR (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WBUR)'s* On Point programme yesterday. I don’t know how long the listen again (http://www.onpointradio.org/shows/2007/05/20070508_b_main.asp) is available, so if you want to listen in, now's the time to do so.  


Quotes from the Show:

"What I like about [Bertold] Brecht is that he was a hypocrite at every level, he left nothing out. Picasso spent most of his life being sincere." Clive James

"Humanism, human achievement in the arts and sciences, faced tremendous threats in the 20th century." Clive James

"Communism had a lingering appeal for intellectuals because it was so simplistic." Clive James

"I'm frightened for the power [mass media] has for numbing." Jack Beatty

"America has always been involved with the arts." Clive James

"It's the books about the books that can get between you and the books." Clive James



Kevin Cryan

*We're Boston University Radio, just in case you are wondering.

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by naomi on 11.05.07 at 23:37
There's an in-depth interview with Clive by Ginny Dougary in this Saturday's (May 12) edition of "The Times" (in the magazine).

Also: from Saturday, the Times Online website will be showing films that Clive has made on figures who have shaped out world.

Enjoy !

Naomi

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by naomi on 11.05.07 at 23:44
Correction: For "out" world, read "our world" !!

N

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 12.05.07 at 10:39
And everything Naomi has mentioned can be found by clicking [bgcolor=Blue]here[/bgcolor] (http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/clive_james/).


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 14.05.07 at 07:45
In his Sunday Times review (http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/clive_james/article1767124.ece) of  Cultural Amnesia , the novelist and biographer A. N. Wilson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._N._Wilson) who though , like the rest of us,  savours "not only the wit, warmth and polymathy of our hero but also his own vivid awareness of these qualities" still  manages to pose an awkward question:

What has had the more devastating effect on the great European cultural tradition – the vile tyrannies that we all, in common with James, deplore, or television and American popular culture as gleefully espoused by James for half his professional life?

I'd like to think that this question is seriously intended and not asked simply because Wilson feels that half of Clive's "professional life" to which he refers to is an easy target.


Kevin Cryan



Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 14.05.07 at 09:34
This is a full transcript (http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.com/2007/05/cultural-amnesia-notes-in-margin-of-my.html) of the notes Graham Beattie used when he reviewed Cultural Amnesia  for Radio New Zealand National (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_New_Zealand) earlier today. He's entered it into his online diary, Beattie's Book Blog,  because, he says, it contains more than he could say in the time allotted to him by the programme.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 14.05.07 at 11:44
I omitted to point out that you can listen to what Graham Beattie actually did say (http://www.radionz.co.nz/nr/programmes/ninetonoon) about Cultural Amnesia  by clicking to the relevant audio section of  Kathryn Ryan's Nine to Noon show. This will be available from the archives for the next seven days.


Kevin Cryan

Title: A.N.Wilson's review
Post by Pete Atkin on 14.05.07 at 18:00
I probably shouldn't get involved, but since I know that Clive himself won't, what the hell?   Kevin, you're a gentleman, and too generous to Wilson;  his piece struck me as just the sort of meretricious tosh I've been fearing and expecting from some British critics.  His final question may be a awkward one, but it's a hackneyed and irrelevant one, especially in the context of the book, and was included, it seems to me, only in order to sign off by generating a kneejerk reaction, a pseudo-wise wag of the head -- except that it's nonsense.  

As for Clive taking a 'sledgehammer to crack the Nazi nut'......   Hey, easy target or what -- let's cut those poor old Nazis some slack!   Worst of all, though, Wilson criticises the book for being what no one who's flipped through it for even a couple of minutes could possibly mistake it for being, namely a kind of reference book or encyclopedia:  so you won't find out from Cultural Amnesia what's important about, say, Hegel or Proust?   Duh!?   It's as if Wilson saw an alphabetical listing of names in the Index and formed a conclusion from that alone.

The whole review read to me as if Wilson had been scanning the book solely on the lookout for the chance of a shiny insult.  In America they took it far more at face value, unencumbered by expectations and preset images of Clive such as those that do nothing but get in the way here.

Pete

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by colin_boag on 15.05.07 at 08:03
Pete, interesting choice of word in 'meretricious'.  Surely part of the problem that some people have with CJ's huge volume of work,  is simply that it is so huge and so wide-ranging - and that in amongst the wonderful stuff there is plenty that could very fairly be described as meretricious!  I previously made the comment that I thought the article on crime novels was a hack piece, because that's the way that it struck me, a bit like a lot of the unwatchable (for me at least) TV stuff.  Of course Cultural Amnesia deserves to be seriously reviewed, but it's unreasonable to expect people to read it in a vacuum...the legacy of the lightweight stuff and the 'too clever by half' label was always bound to come into it.  If a reviewer opts for a glib line in his or her review...well, surely that goes with the territory?

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Pete Atkin on 15.05.07 at 12:56
There's a difference between 'glib' and just plain wrong.  A.N.Wilson has done you, me,  and all the readers of the Sunday Times an injustice by straightforwardly misreporting Clive's book, in fundamental ways that should have been obvious if he'd spent more than five minutes with it.   Assuming that he did, he must have another agenda.   'Cultural Amnesia' makes no claim whatever, for instance, to being a work of information, nor does it set out anywhere to deplore the state of twentieth century culture, least of all to blame the Nazis for it;  it does deplore the influence of certain individuals, but it celebrates far, far more.   That you could not begin to tell from Wilson's review.

Clive would, I'm sure, beat everyone to the admission that anything he does is bound to be seen in the context of everything else he has done, but surely one of the responsibilities of a serious critic in a serious newspaper is to separate the history, the myth, the image, the gossip -- not deny it, but separate it -- from the intrinsic qualities of the work under discussion.   We, the readers, will bring all of that to it anyway;  what we need from a review is not to be given our opinion but a basis for making our own judgement.  If the basis given is untruthful, then we are betrayed.


Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 15.05.07 at 21:52
A.N. Wilson, whose only work I've ever read is the rather, as I recall it, good satirical novel Scandal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scandal_%28novel%29) is, by all reliable accounts, a serious man of letters. I was being the "gentleman" Pete calls me only in that I tried to pay Wilson him the compliment of thinking that he take too much pride in his reputation to stoop to the cheap "point-scoring" employed by your average Grub Street hack, and that when he poses a question, even, as in this case, a rhetorical one, his intention is to be taken seriously and to engage the serious reader.      

I called Wilson's question an awkward one simply because it points to the fact that he seems think –and I know he is not the only one - that we all ought to share his, to me, preposterous belief that American popular culture has had a more "devastating effect on the great European cultural tradition" than "the vile tyrannies we all... deplore". What seems to me outlandish about this, in the first place,  is that it presumes that we can somehow measure such effects with a degree of accuracy, that we can know what in culture has been lost either through “vile tyrannies” or through “American popular culture“ being in ascendancy.  

What Wilson seems to be suggesting that the European cultural tradition is an expensive commodity and American popular culture is, it goes without saying, a cheap one, and that somehow we have bought into the one at the expense of the other. In other words, if we did not have the one – American popular culture, say - pressed upon us, we’d be automatically consuming the other, or so he seems to imply. Can’t you just see it? Wilson’s ideal - a world full of people with Chopin, Sibelius and Beethoven in their ipods because the cheap muck they have on them nowadays is no longer available.  

I wonder if it has ever occurred to Wilson that by the same token it could be argued that the novels, or biographies or essays of one A.N. Wilson are having a “devastating effect” on the European literary tradition. Why?  Because while we are reading his comparatively lightweight stuff, we are neglecting the more nourishing works of the great masters, Tolstoy, Proust and Dostoevsky, to name but three. The truth, of course, our choice –to which each of us has every right - could very well be between Wilson and nothing.    


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 16.05.07 at 06:57
There is an interesting review (http://www.metrotimes.com/editorial/review.asp?id=117256) of Cultural  Amnesia in the free Detroit newspaper, the Metro Times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro_Times). Actually it's not that  interesting in itself, but it is interesting  that it should  appear in  a "free of charge" weekly aimed at a mass readership.

I wonder how many of our "free of charge" newspapers will consider it worthwhile discussing the book. Not many, I should think.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 16.05.07 at 21:34

on 05/14/07 at 09:34:12, Kevin Cryan wrote :
This is a full transcript (http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.com/2007/05/cultural-amnesia-notes-in-margin-of-my.html) of the notes Graham Beattie used when he reviewed Cultural Amnesia  for Radio New Zealand National (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_New_Zealand) earlier today. He's entered it into his online diary, Beattie's Book Blog,  because, he says, it contains more than he could say in the time allotted to him by the programme.


Kevin Cryan



on 05/14/07 at 11:44:30, Kevin Cryan wrote :
I omitted to point out that you can listen to what Graham Beattie actually did say (http://www.radionz.co.nz/nr/programmes/ninetonoon) about Cultural Amnesia  by clicking to the relevant audio section of  Kathryn Ryan's Nine to Noon show. This will be available from the archives for the next seven days.


Kevin Cryan


Graham Beattie has since been keeping track of how Cultural Amnesia is being reviewed elsewhere. This is today's posting to his online diary, Beattie's Book Blog.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007
THE LAST WORD ON CULTURAL AMNESIA (http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.com/2007/05/last-word-on-cultural-amnesia-lest.html)

http://bp2.blogger.com/_oYWWBxuA2MU/RkqVdeL1N2I/AAAAAAAABE8/LoYGNWbMmmU/s320/Clive+James+cartoon.jpgLest anyone thinks I have become obssessed with Clive James' latest book I promise this will be the last review of that title that I shall blog! I have after all reviewed it myself (http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.com/2007/05/cultural-amnesia-notes-in-margin-of-my.html) and have carried various other reviews (http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.com/2007/03/cultural-amnesia-by-clive-james-william.html) as well.


But I have just come across Geoffrey Lehmann's review (http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21692848-5003900,00.html) from The Australian last weekend in which he admires Clive James' "eminently accessible erudition" and I believe this review is worthy of further distribution.


Illustration by Igor Saktor from the same newspaper.

Posted by Bookman Beattie at 5:19 PM (http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.com/2007/05/last-word-on-cultural-amnesia-lest.html)


I didn't spot Geoffrey Lehmann's review (http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21692848-5003900,00.html) myself, but that was probably because I thought the the Australian papers had taken as much interest as they were going to take for the time being. How wrong can you be?

Kevin Cryan  


Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by colin_boag on 17.05.07 at 08:00
Are we to admire or deplore the Lehmann review?  Doesn't it too have a hint of criticism about omissions that might prevent 'Cultural Amnesia' being a 'work of information'?  (Having said that, I didn't feel that the Wilson review did that to the extent that is alleged.)

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 18.05.07 at 07:17
D-Day (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D-Day) (or should that be P-Day?) for the UK edition of Clive's Cultural Amensia (http://66.102.9.104/search?q=cache:HDpdxnFg1AkJ:www.panmacmillan.com/authors%2520illustrators/displayPage.asp%3FpageTitle%3DOther%2520Titles%26ContributorID%3D70217%26ContributorName%3DClive%2520James+clive+%2Bjames+18/05/2007&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=uk).

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by colin_boag on 18.05.07 at 07:55
They seemed to be selling quite well in Waterstone's in Winchester yesterday!

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 18.05.07 at 08:04
Official P-Day, then?


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 19.05.07 at 16:01
John Simon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Simon_(critic)), the Serbian-American author and literary, theatre, and film critic, famed for spottting the misuse of the English language in writing, has a go at indentifying some Clive’s errors in what is an otherwise laudatory review (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/17/AR2007051702469.html) Cultural Amnesia to be published in tomorrow’s edition of The Washington Post (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Washington_Post).


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 19.05.07 at 18:27
I’m beholden to a member of this parish for tipping me off (in an instant message) that the author and journalist Johann Hari (http://johannhari.com/about.php) has now posted the  “(rather good) review” (http://johannhari.com/archive/article.php?id=1117) of Cultural Amnesia he wrote for the 15th of May edition of the  Evening Standard (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evening_Standard) to his online journal, JohnnHari.com.

Actually I think this is something more than the “(rather good) review” it's described as; it is, to my mind, a piece written by rising star in appreciation of someone he considers a master. You can see that there is admiration shining through practically every paragraph. Take this one for instance:

This, then, is the autobiography of James' intellect and yes, it is self-indulgent - but what a self to indulge. He speaks nine languages (it feels as though the entire Tower of Babel has been shrunk to fit into his skull) and can unpretentiously cross-reference Argentinian poetry, early Hollywood and his dinners with Margaret Thatcher. Reading 'Cultural Amnesia' is like taking a long, warm bath in Clive James' brain-juices.  

and this, the final, paragraph:

The only other flaw here is with the book's central metaphor. James is not really battling against cultural amnesia. No: he is fighting against cultural diabetes, the sickness that afflicts a culture when our diet consists of nothing but the sugar-stimulants of television and video games and lads' mags. He is showing his readers that there are far richer rewards in the slower work of "the life of the mind", and he offers one of the best shots of insulin available.

Hari, I feel, very often just stops short of saying outright that Clive is the kind of writer he would like to be. Has Clive, then, found his ideal reader? I believe he has. And I fancy that it'll please him no end to know that what he says in his book is working it's it's way into the mind of someone who has not yet reached thirty.

Kevin Cryan



Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Tiny_Montgomery on 20.05.07 at 17:42
I can't help wishing that Clive had stuck with his original and more memorable title - Alone in the Cafe: Notes In the Margin of My Time.

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 20.05.07 at 18:02
William H. Prichard (http://www.answers.com/topic/william-h-pritchard) has given Clive’s Cultural Amnesia a fair and sympathetic hearing (http://washingtontimes.com/books/20070519-101019-3738r.htm) in a good, though somewhat sloppily proof-read or edited, essay in today’s edition of The Washington Times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Times)

Given that the good professor has got a reputation for eschewing the kind of impenetrable writing that some of his academic peers go in for in spades, and that what he himself writes can be easily read by the intelligent reader, it probably comes as no surprise that he rather likes what Clive has written and, more particularly, that he likes Clive's  manner of writing it.

Mr. James has always had a sharp ear for high-flown obscurities as pronounced by continental sages and literary theorists. He notes that Walter Benjamin (whisper the name) made it in the realm of theory "where critics rank as philosophers if they are hard enough to read." Benjamin, though "clever enough . . . was clear seldom: a handy combination of talents for attaining oracular status," and he gave credence to "the damaging notion that there is somehow a progressivist humanitarian licence for talking through a high hat.".................

..................In my single favorite from the whole book, the style of Miles Davis' trumpet playing is finely judged: "Deliberately parsimonious and oblique, like the sound track of a Noh play that had closed out of town." Parsimonious and oblique would be very good going for most of us, but the Noh play closing out of town is sheer genius.



Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 23.05.07 at 07:29
There was a version (http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/clive_james/article1808085.ece) of Clive's John Keats essay from  Cultural Amnesia  printed in the May the 19th issue of The Times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Times).

I say "a version" simply because I have not read as far as the K section of the book, and therefore do not know whether or not what appears in The Times has been edited.


Kevin Cryan

PS. It's worth bearing in mind, while reading this essay, that the inspiration for one Clive's cerebral (and, to my mind, haunting) song-lyrics came from a Keats line (http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/k/keats/john/poems/to--.html)  - I'm of course talking about Touch Has a Memory (http://www.peteatkin.com/a2.htm).



Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Ian Chippett on 23.05.07 at 22:37
I can't remember if this has appeared here: it turned up on the Anthony Powell Forum.

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/clive_james/article1808638.ece

Ian C

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 24.05.07 at 10:44
In “Too Big for the Bathroom Shelf”, an essay published in the current issue of the Australian magazine, The Monthly (http://www.themonthly.com.au/currentIssue/index.html), the normally generous and accommodating Australian academic Peter Conrad (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Conrad_%28academic%29) seems to have got a bee in his bonnet about Cultural Amnesia, about which, or, to be more precise, about the author of which, he has some uncharacteristically harsh things to say.  

 “Halfway through, Clive James worries that the book might be ‘a folly’, like one of those overgrown, impractical architectural projects designed by eighteenth-century dilettanti who built pagodas or zigurrats onto their Georgian houses. James’s twinge of panic is justified: Cultural Amnesia, I am sorry to say, is incoherent, garbled and ultimately pointless, meandering through a series of endless circuits inside his crowded, voluminous head.”............ .....

“James is a brilliant columnist, unbeatable if confined to a couple of thousand zippy words. But a few hundred columns do not add up to a cathedral. Digressiveness is a license permitted to an essayist, who cannot stray beyond the space allotted to him. In Cultural Amnesia, this spirit of rambling free-association ignores all limits, and goads James to crass self-indulgence.”


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 26.05.07 at 21:32

on 04/07/07 at 11:38:17, Kevin Cryan wrote :
In today’s edition of The New York Times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Times), the columnist Liesl Schillinger (http://www.pfdny.com/authors/schillil/) her review of Cultural Amnesia - a  “capacious and capricious encyclopedia of essays” (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/08/books/review/Schillinger.t.html?ref=books), she calls it at one point -  by asking whether it wisdom or folly for Clive to have undertaken a feat such as this.


Kevin Cryan


http://www.pfdny.com/media/authors/schillil.jpgAlthough Liesl Schillinger (http://www.pfdny.com/authors/schillil/) (pictured) has rewritten The New York Times review of Cultural Amnesia for the Book section (http://living.scotsman.com/books.cfm?id=817042007) of today’s edition of The Scotsman (http://www.scotsman.com/), her final verdict remains wholly unaltered:

"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"

Kevin Cryan




Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 27.05.07 at 14:37
One of The Observer's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Observer) literary editors, Robert McCrum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McCrum), has written a rather maladroit,  and rather inelegantly composed, review of Cultural Amnesia for the paper’s  Review pages (http://observer.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,2088795,00.html).

It begins:

"To describe Clive James as a distinguished former TV critic of The Observer is rather like saying Jefferson was a Virginian landowner or Socrates a clever bloke with a penchant for chatting with bright young men. Behind the chortling, sardonic demeanour of a veteran journalist is a riotous hinterland of underexplored cultural foliage. His fans have always known it was there but now, at the age of 67, and after 40 years of good husbandry, James has decided to open his exotic garden to the public. Cultural Amnesia is the result. Never was there a more dramatic case study of 'le style, c'est l'homme'".

Maybe it's me, but I cannot follow the logic that gets McCrum through that paragraph. nd of that paragraph. Later on, he writes:

"James, a literary critical Bourbon of the English-speaking world, seems to have learned nothing and forgotten nothing".

Leaving aside the fact that I cannot for the life of me figure out how Clive the literary critic might resemble a Bourbon, I have some considerable difficulty in working out how anyone, let alone Clive, could “have learned nothing and forgotten nothing”

Later on, in a paragraph in which, returning to the agricultural metaphor of the fist paragraph,  he says that he suspects that Clive of “frugally recycling some ancient intellectual compost”, he in the same breath tells us that the "disproportion of gravy to beef makes Cultural Amnesia a wonderful book for a long afternoon in a left-bank cafe, or a transatlantic plane ride, but perverse and sometimes baffling to fans who might have been hoping for a Jamesian summation”.

I suppose  that what he’s saying is that the book on the whole is enjoyable, but that it may not appeal to who expect Clive to be pithy. I imagine that’s what his saying, but the move from the "intellectual compost" metaphor to the "gravy and beef" one is so clumsy and hard to take that this reader is tempted not to care overly much with what’s being said. Life. as they say, is too short; and anyway it would be better spent actually reading the book itself rather than pondering reviews of this kind.

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 27.05.07 at 15:33
“I believe it is impossible to understand the 20th century without reading George Orwell, and this very big book, which James implies is his life's major work, would make an admirable Orwell companion” is how  Gordon McLauchlan (http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/writers/mclauchlangordon.html) concludes his very favourable review (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=134&objectid=10441684) of Cultural Amnesia for yesterday’s edition The New Zealand Herald (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand_Herald).

McLaughlan's is a review, I believe, that doesn't waste reader's time. Having got about halfway through the 900 or so ages - in no particular order I should say-  I think I'm coming to much the same conclusion as McLaughlan has,  and I'm coming to it for pretty much the same reasons as the he gives.

Kevin Cryan  

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 27.05.07 at 18:34
ArcaMax Publishing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ArcaMax_Publishing), one of the bigger and more popular website-based news and ezine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ezine) publishers, which operates out of Newport News (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newport_News%2C_VA), Virginia, has just published John Simon’s Washington Post review (http://www.arcamax.com/bookreviews/s-194423-489568?source=1930) of Cultural Amnesia.


Kevin Cryan



Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by BogusTrumper on 14.06.07 at 14:03
OK, so it is Father's Day this weekend (in the States) and daughter was home, but only so she could move out to her new apartment 1500 miles away  :(

But guess what I have available to read now?  :D

Title: Synchronicity
Post by BogusTrumper on 16.06.07 at 15:13
Si I had to go get my tires totated and oil changed today, and I took my virgin copy of Clive's book with me.  While they were working on the car, I went to a coffee shop and sat down at a table to start.  With the Introduction.

For those of you who have read the Introduction, you will understand my thread title.  For those of you who have not - Why not?  :)

And for those of you interested, I read Sophie Scholl first, as I had recently seen the movie, followed by Tacitus.  What did you read first?

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 17.06.07 at 18:36
The novelist , journalist and critic Philip Hensher (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Hensher) reviewing Cultural Amnesia for the July14th edition (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2007/06/14/bojam109.xml) of  The Daily Telegraph (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Daily_Telegraph), says that “when a critic so blatantly uses his subjects in order to address the topic he was going to talk about anyway, the result may be a narrowing of focus rather than the open vistas the contents page suggests” and makes a pretty good fist of showing how the book can be read in that way,

Clive’s greatest fault, as he sees it, is “a willingness to condemn writers who said the wrong thing, like Brecht, or wrote about something else”

"I don't see what would have been gained by an anti-Nazi statement by Ernst Curtius, or why the lack of that might diminish his great book European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Curtius was interested in a medieval subject, and we're all enriched by that masterpiece.

James writes well about the object of study and its meanings, when it is in front of him. But these speculations about what isn't, and was never meant to be, in certain books, break critical decorum. No one will be interested, for instance, in the reflection that "if Schubert had lived even four more years - the difference between his lifetime and Mozart's - he would have written not just a few more works of the same complexity, but dozens, perhaps hundreds. It is like thinking of the Bellini operas we lost because of a simple sickness."

Well, yes. But as the Spanish so vulgarly say, if my auntie had a penis, she'd be my uncle. There's not a lot of point in thinking of something we can't imagine, not being Schubert or Bellini. It is a bit like wondering about how you are going to spend your non-existent lottery millions, the most vulgar form of imaginative speculation”
.

The fact that I personally don’t agree with point being made doesn’t mean that it, or something like it, didn’t occur to me, or that I did not bear it in mind, while reading those essays Hensher mentions. I happen to think that while the speculations about Schubert and Bellini, which occur in the Alfred Einstein essay (p186), really don’t count for much – and that the reader could well have done without them – I do feel strongly that it is perfectly permissible to speculate what an anti-Nazi statement from Curtius might have actually have meant, had it come. It certainly would not have made any difference to how Curtius's Europäische Literatur und Lateinisches Mittelalter (European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages) is read or valued, and Clive is very careful to avoid suggesting that it would. Hensher, in failing to grasp that, has either missed the point or is wilfully misreading the essay,

“It is comprehensible and forgivable that Curtius said nothing about Nazi atrocities during the war. Incomprehensible and unforgivable is that he said nothing about them after it (my emphasis KC).  At the height of his prestige, with the whole international scholarly world for a worshipping audience, he never alluded to the extermination camps. George Steiner was right to point out that Eliot’s post-war Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, by neglecting to mention what had just happened to Europe, disqualified itself from being a definition of culture. The same objection can be made to Curtius thunderous silence.” (Cultural Amnesia p. 159)

As far as Clive is concerned, Curtius, in thinking that “the true Germany could survive within the Nazi State” was fooling himself in that peculiar way that some intellectuals frequently do. He points out that Christine Jacquemard-de Gémeaux (spelt Gemeux in CA, by the way) in her 1998 monograph, Ernst-Robert Curtius (1886-1956): Origines et cheminements d'un esprit européen,  “generously making a point he never made for himself, would have us believe that there was such a thing as an interior intellectual life to which Hitler was exterior” and suggests that “she might well have argued that the worm in the apple’s core was exterior to the apple”.  You don’t have to agree with either Clive or, indeed, with Mme. Jacquemard-de Gémeaux to recognize that what is at stake is the big question of whether there could be, or can be, an interior intellectual life separate from any power hell-bent on snuffing it out.

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 21.06.07 at 08:39
In his KyleSmithOnline.com (http://kylesmithonline.com/) blog, the American journalist, novelist and critic Kyle Smith (http://www.bookreporter.com/authors/au-smith-kyle.asp) writes well about the buzz he's got (http://kylesmithonline.com/?p=97) from reading Clive's Cultural Amnesia.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by paul.leighton on 21.06.07 at 11:04

The Kyle Smith review of Clive's Cultural Amnesia, to which Kevin has drawn our attention, really is a very good read.  In fact, there are some nice echoes of Clive's style
in the construction.  Definitely worth navigating there.

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 23.06.07 at 15:29
The LA based blogger Alexander Levari, writing in his The Night Book (http://thenightbook.blogspot.com/) blogspot, finds Clive’s Cultural Amnesia inspiring and wants everyone to read it.

[bgcolor=Black]
6/22/07
Summer Reading (http://thenightbook.blogspot.com/2007/06/summer-reading.html)[/color
Latest Reading (voraciously over the last coupledays)......................................................

Cultural Amnesia by Clive James - Not that I would wish this fate on anyone, but I almost wish an Imam or two would declare a Fatwa on Clive James for writing this book. Then, at least, everyone would know about this and at least take a good look through it. This might be the most important book published this year. I've set up a link to 12 excerpts of the book through slate.com on the side bar. It's riveting. A bomb of humanism that reminds us not only of who we are, but who we can be. A monumental achievment of culture, criticism and creativity. You'll never forget the name Sophie Scholl, among others, after reading this book. And no one should. Thank you, Mr. James. This book hasn't changed my life, but it's illuminated and inspired it.[/bgcolor]


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 25.06.07 at 09:11

on 05/19/07 at 18:27:44, Kevin Cryan wrote :
I’m beholden to a member of this parish for tipping me off (in an instant message) that the author and journalist Johann Hari (http://johannhari.com/about.php) has now posted the  “(rather good) review” (http://johannhari.com/archive/article.php?id=1117) of Cultural Amnesia he wrote for the 15th of May edition of the  Evening Standard (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evening_Standard) to his online journal, JohnnHari.com.

Actually I think this is something more than the “(rather good) review” it's described as; it is, to my mind, a piece written by rising star in appreciation of someone he considers a master. You can see that there is admiration shining through practically every paragraph. .......................

......................................................................................................
Hari, I feel, very often just stops short of saying outright that Clive is the kind of writer he would like to be. Has Clive, then, found his ideal reader? I believe he has. And I fancy that it'll please him no end to know that what he says in his book is working it's it's way into the mind of someone who has not yet reached thirty.

Kevin Cryan


Clive's own reactions to Hari's review (http://www.johannhari.com/archive/article.php?id=1117) and to reading again a 2001 interview he gave to Hari (http://www.johannhari.com/archive/article.php?id=190) were to be heard on his A Point of View (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/views/a_point_of_view/) broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on Friday the 22nd of June.

EXTRACTS FROM A POINT OF VIEW TRANSCRIPT.

"...some of the reviews were gratifyingly thoughtful and one of the most thoughtful was by that sparkling young British journalist Johann Hari, whose work you may have seen, and if you haven't you should.

Although he holds certain political opinions that I don't share - he was careful to point these out in case I had forgotten them - I thought his reaction to my book was a good part of the reward for having written it.

To inspire such keen interest in a bright young person is surely part of my mission when dusk falls on the glittering city and I don the tightly fitting costume of the caped cultural critic to go swinging high above the teeming streets on the lookout for fallacious arguments to counter and damsel-like humanist values to rescue from durance vile. So I took advantage of the marvellous new technology and added Johann Hari's review of my book to my website, whose name I can mention because it's not a business that makes money...............................

....at the bottom of Johann Hari's review there is another link, provided by himself, which leads you to a piece he wrote when he was even younger, as if that were possible. Most people younger than him can't write at all except with crayons, but apparently he once interviewed me. No doubt dragging his school satchel, he turned up at my place expecting to meet the sun-soaked spirit behind the merry columns, programmes and articles that he claimed to have been enjoying ever since he was a child, several minutes previously.

I read on past the second paragraph of this interview and I was suddenly appalled. The encounter had taken place about five years ago and obviously it had depressed him deeply, perhaps permanently. The picture he painted of me was of a desperately unhappy and self-questioning paranoid sad-sack. After that it got less funny. It seemed that I not only had to fight back tears as I choked out my defensive answers, but that I started to bleed spontaneously from the scalp.

Across the years I think I can dimly remember that when he rang my doorbell upon arrival I brained myself as usual against the sloping roof of my study but it could well have been the result of one of those occasions when I open the refrigerator door to get out the butter that I'm not supposed to have, drop it on the floor, and then stand up suddenly without having remembered that the door is open. Well-adjusted people don't do that sort of thing even once.

No wonder I had forgotten ever reading the interview, let alone giving it. It was a wonder that I hadn't gone somewhere shortly afterwards to lie down in a bus-lane. Unfortunately for me, reading the piece now, I can see that my disappointed young admirer quoted me accurately and that every impression he reported was soundly based. I'd like to think that he caught me on a bad day but I'm afraid that he caught me on a typical one. If that's the way you come over, that's the way you are, and as I speak to you now I am consumed with this latest reinforcement of a recurring notion, the suspicion that I don't spend even a tenth enough time recording the fact that I actually do enjoy those features of existence that don't drive me to mumbling pessimism."




Kevin Cryan


Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by S J Birkill on 25.06.07 at 09:42
With Clive's return to R4's A Point Of View (thanks Kevin) I've reinstated the hot links from Smash Flops to the appropriate BBC Magazine page and the Listen Again function.

You'll find them just below the BBC News syndiction window in the left-hand side-bar of the SF front page (http://www.peteatkin.com/pa.htm).

Steve

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 27.06.07 at 07:27

on 06/23/07 at 15:29:12, Kevin Cryan wrote :
The LA based blogger Alexander Levari, writing in his The Night Book (http://thenightbook.blogspot.com/) blogspot, finds Clive’s Cultural Amnesia inspiring and wants everyone to read it.

[bgcolor=Black]
6/22/07
Summer Reading (http://thenightbook.blogspot.com/2007/06/summer-reading.html)[/color
Latest Reading (voraciously over the last coupledays)......................................................

Cultural Amnesia by Clive James - Not that I would wish this fate on anyone, but I almost wish an Imam or two would declare a Fatwa on Clive James for writing this book. Then, at least, everyone would know about this and at least take a good look through it. This might be the most important book published this year. I've set up a link to 12 excerpts of the book through slate.com on the side bar. It's riveting. A bomb of humanism that reminds us not only of who we are, but who we can be. A monumental achievment of culture, criticism and creativity. You'll never forget the name Sophie Scholl, among others, after reading this book. And no one should. Thank you, Mr. James. This book hasn't changed my life, but it's illuminated and inspired it.[/bgcolor]


Kevin Cryan




" [bgcolor=Black]6/25/07
Cultural Amnesia redux... (http://thenightbook.blogspot.com/2007/06/cultural-amnesia-redux.html)[/bgcolor]
[bgcolor=Black]Pete Atkin's "Midnight Voices" blog has an interesting thread with reviews and thoughts on "Cultural Amnesia" from both the pundits and the peanut gallery. Kevin Cryan, a member of the board, was kind enough to include me in the discussion, with my review of the book on 6/22 quoted. I was listed under Alexander Levari, and so there is no mix up, the name is simply "Levari."

To me Levari is like Pete Mitchell's call sign of "Maverick" in Top Gun, only they beat me to Maverick so I had to settle for this one...

Thanks for the link.

You can read the board here:

http://www.peteatkin.com/cgi-bin/mv/YaBB.cgi?board=Words;action=display;num=1172831592;start=113

Sorry about the cut and paste, I haven't quite figured out the whole hyper-text link thing yet.

Posted by Levari at 3:37 PM [/bgcolor]
"

I wonder whether I should feel like I'm a member of a rat pack (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_Pack), with Pete sitting in as my Francis Albert (the chairman), or just a figure in the peanut gallery (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peanut_gallery)?

Ah well, it's too early in the day to go through an identity crisis!!!!


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 30.06.07 at 19:27
Clive is participating in the Way with Words Literary Festival which takes place between the 6th and 16th of July at Dartington Hall in Devon.*

Here you find a pdf (http://www.wayswithwords.co.uk/pdf/dartington-programme.pdf) of the full festival programme.

This programme, as you will quickly realise,  is a little out  of date – or should I say the pdf of it is - in that it has Clive appearing in the at the Great Hall talking about a book called Alone in the Café. Those of you have been keeping up with Steve's steady stream of useful information will be well aware that Cultural Amnesia (http://www.peteatkin.com/images/cultamuks.jpg)'s original title was Alone in the Café (http://www.peteatkin.com/images/alonecafe.jpg) and that the festival piece must have been written before the change of title was decided upon.

(Then again, I'm beginning to wonder whether the person how compiled the notes bothered to check any facts.  I don’t think, for instance,  Clive ever considered publishing the fourth volume of Unreliable Memoirs under the title My Name is Light  as the same programme -or pdf?- has it. My Name in Lights was a title he did consider and reject in favour of North Face of Soho. The programme writer persumably scribbled down My Name is Light and never for a second thought that it was a title that needed some explanation.)


Kevin Cryan

PS. I’m very pleased to see to see that the Irish poet Seamus Heaney (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seamus_Heaney) now feels fit enough (http://memex.naughtons.org/archives/2006/11/23/3443) to return to the public arena. He is opening the festival on Friday the 6th at 2.30 with Suffering and Decision – The Ted Hughes Memorial Lecture, and later in the day he will be reading from his latest collection of poems District and Circle (http://www.amazon.co.uk/District-Circle-Seamus-Heaney/dp/0571230962).


*Some useful links to the festival begin here (http://www.discoverdevon.com/site/where-to-stay/ways-with-words-literature-festival-2007-p271863).

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 02.07.07 at 20:56
“........

I traded in the Toyota Camry for the Yaris, which has the best fuel efficiency of any car on the market. And I began Clive James’s Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time, a collection of essays on the great thinkers and artists of the past century. James has always liked women; he even includes some of them in his list.”


Wow!!!. Only mention of the purchase of a fuel-efficient car tips the reader off to the fact that this priceless piece of writing is not  by a none too imaginative 14 or 15 year old, but by someone who is at least old enough to have a driving liscence.

It is in fact a the work –part of a much longer piece -  of the well-respected Canadian journalist and critic Heather Mallick (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heather_Mallick), and it appears, in all its unadorned glory,  the Analasys and News colum (http://www.cbc.ca/news/viewpoint/vp_mallick/20070702.html) of today's edition of Canada's  CBC (http://www.cbc.radio-canada.ca/home.asp) News online.

Ms. Mallick's aside - and I'll grant that it is only a carlessly thrown off aside, probably written to make up the word count - proves that people writing for the web and writing online need to be subjected to as much editorial control as their print counterparts. If they are not good editors themselves, or they don't allow themselves to be edited by others, they run the risk or putting into print immature tosh of the kind that would not pass muster in a secondary school essay and making themselves look as foolish as Ms Mallick does here.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 03.07.07 at 08:31
The American poet,  academic and critic, and now member of the increasingly influential National Book Critics Circle (http://www.bookcritics.org/?go=home) board of directors, Maureen McLane (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poet.html?id=82384), posted this piece of fulsome praise for Clive's Cultural Amnesia to the Circle's blog (http://bookcriticscircle.blogspot.com/2007/06/maureen-mclanes-early-summer-reading.html) on Saturday the 30th of June.

"Dipping in to Clive James’s Cultural Amnesia: necessary memories from history and the arts (http://www.clivejames.com/recent-books) (Norton) – a book that begs dipping into, organized as it is alphabetically, from Anna Akhmatova to Josef Goebbels to Edward Said to Stefan Zweig.  Excerpts have run on Slate.com (http://www.slate.com/id/2159088/) – I recall reading James’s essay on Borges there.  Note: the generally three-to-five-page essays are often defiantly digressive, an essay on Sir Thomas Browne (the 17th C. essayist) modulating into riffs on Raymond Chandler, the piece on Louis Armstrong devoted in large part to Bix Beiderbecke.  This kind of riffing and shifting is his mode but also his implicit argument: culture as a vast network of associations.  Reading more extensively in the book what strikes me is the strong and often appealing didacticism: Read this!  Every young person should have this on his shelf!  Every aspiring artist should have that!  James is a button-holer almost as forceful as his oft-quoted Ezra Pound.  James’s style of high-low switchbacking, his careering from pop song to TV to German philosophy to balletomanes, seems very late 20th C., and very British-cum-Australian.  One thinks of the art critic and fellow Australian-born personage Robert Hughes (and James must be tired of the comparison): an equally pugnacious, vivid writer full of contempt for the mandarins of theory....."


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 07.07.07 at 20:57
In the online edition of today’s Die Welt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Welt) (the world) the political commentator, journalist and author Hannes Stein (ttp://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannes_Stein) recommends five books in English (http://www.welt.de/kultur/literarischewelt/article1001018/Five_Books_in_English.html), one of which is Clive’s Cultural Amnesia.

"Lesetipps von Hannes Stein:
Clive James: Cultural Amnesia. W. W. Norton, New York. 768 S., ca. 29,50 Euro.

Through portraits that range from John Coltrane to Trotsky and beyond, James has written an engrossing history of the twentieth century. By the way, the best thing about this book are the digressions.
"

Stein is a highly regarded journalist in Europe,  and it has to be admittted that his opinions and recommendations will have some clout with his European readers.

However, over here and in America, where his reputation is not quite so secure, he unlikely have any great effect. He has over the years blotted his copybook being openly, and many would say uncritically, pro-Reagan and pro-Bush, in a word, pro-conservative America.

A couple of years, (writing again for Die Welt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Welt)), he claimed that Ronald Reagan’s gung-ho treatment of the Soviet Union was just what was needed to bring the whole edifice tumbling down. It was, according to this his view, Reagan’s   ”Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” in 1988, that finally broke the Soviet Union. He’s added, in the same breath, that “George W. Bush is a continuation of Reagan” in following his instincts in Iraq.
 
At the time, there were still canny observers in the west who believed the Soviet Union was a power that commendably kept a lid on many minor ethnic conflicts around the globe. It was believed that openly confronting this Power would lead to catastrophe. The reputed historian Arthur J. Schlesinger wrote thus: “Those in the United States who think the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and social collapse; ready with one small push to go over the brink are wishful thinkers whoa are only kidding themselves.” Ronald Reagan alone, the despised and loathed Cowboy president, the B-movie actor, the reactionary, the anti-communist offspring of the Cold War declared in a visit to Berlin in 1988: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”…………………”

That the Soviet Union fell is in no doubt; that it fell on Reagan’s “watch” is again not in doubt; that it fell because of what Reagan, or because of what of anything anybody in the US had done, is debatable. One is unlikely to trust the opinions of a man who seems to think otherwise.

Kevin Cryan

PS.

There are people who thin that Stein's contention that Bush (George W that is) had actually read The Case for Democracy: The power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror (http://www.amazon.com/Case-Democracy-Freedom-Overcome-Tyranny/dp/1586482610)and has understood it well enough to use the lessons taken from it as a guide to his actions in the Middle East[/url]was sufficient reason to doubt his sanity when it came to commenting on US affairs. But then they are probably the kind of people who like to believe that Bush reading is not especially extensive. It probably isn't, but that is another matter.

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 09.07.07 at 13:08

on 07/02/07 at 20:56:43, Kevin Cryan wrote :
“........

I traded in the Toyota Camry for the Yaris, which has the best fuel efficiency of any car on the market. And I began Clive James’s Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time, a collection of essays on the great thinkers and artists of the past century. James has always liked women; he even includes some of them in his list.”


Wow!!!. Only mention of the purchase of a fuel-efficient car tips the reader off to the fact that this priceless piece of writing is not  by a none too imaginative 14 or 15 year old, but by someone who is at least old enough to have a driving liscence.

It is in fact a the work –part of a much longer piece -  of the well-respected Canadian journalist and critic Heather Mallick (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heather_Mallick), and it appears, in all its unadorned glory,  the Analasys and News colum (http://www.cbc.ca/news/viewpoint/vp_mallick/20070702.html) of today's edition of Canada's  CBC (http://www.cbc.radio-canada.ca/home.asp) News online.

Ms. Mallick's aside - and I'll grant that it is only a carlessly thrown off aside, probably written to make up the word count - proves that people writing for the web and writing online need to be subjected to as much editorial control as their print counterparts. If they are not good editors themselves, or they don't allow themselves to be edited by others, they run the risk or putting into print immature tosh of the kind that would not pass muster in a secondary school essay and making themselves look as foolish as Ms Mallick does here.


Kevin Cryan



Ms. Mallick has another go (http://www.cbc.ca/news/viewpoint/vp_mallick/20070709.html).

This Week

I apologize to readers of last week's column in which I praised Clive James's Cultural Amnesia, a collection of alphabetically ordered essays that his publisher, Picador, claims are studies of the great "thinkers, humanists, musicians, artists and philosophers" of the 20th century. This is fine, until you reach Dick Cavett, Tony Curtis, Adolf Hitler and Josef Goebbels. In fact, James's book should have been titled People (Mostly Dead) Who Interest Me. It's a brilliant book, a literary acid trip from which I'm still recovering, but be warned that it's a heartbreaker. Only reviewers who haven't read it would call it a romp.

Imagine our shrunken world if George Orwell had not survived the Spanish Civil War, James writes. He then tells us about the destruction of Vienna's café society, about the great Jewish minds sometimes literally kicked to pieces by Hitler's minions. Maybe there's a reason we're in such bad shape today. Our best humans were murdered.


I'll leave readers to decide whether of not this is an improvement on the original.


Kevin Cyan


Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Jeremy on 09.07.07 at 15:42
Thanks mostly to Kevin's tireless trumpeting of the arrival of CJ's CA in here, I was well prepared for its release in the UK and could heavily suggest its suitability as a Father's Day gift to my daughter.  I've been reading it off and on since that happy day, and it's more than lived up to my expectations: the breadth and depth of his references, his enthusiasm and his tireless, but always interesting, declaration of his political viewpoint.  

I can't add anything to the learned reviews which have already been collected here, but I thought I might shine a light on a tiny point which I don't think has been picked up to date.  On p 498, in the article on Eugenio Montale, there is a set of memory tests, ranging across an alarmingly wide variety of books.  I have no idea about the answers to most of these, but the penultimate one caught my eye:

Is it "Sergeant X" or "For Esme-With Love And Squalor" that features [a Dostoevsky quotation]?

Having been a JD Salinger fan from an early age, I was pretty sure about the answer: it's "For Esme-With Love And Squalor".  More interestingly, I think there's a mistake here: there's no such story as "Sergeant X" - instead, he's a character in "For Esme...".  To be pedantic, the quotation appears in a story within "For Esme..."; that story doesn't have a title (but, in fact, "Sergeant X" would be a very good one).  

I'm not quite sure if CJ's being deliberately tricky in posing this question, or if he wasn't recalling the titles correctly.  If the latter, then it's a neat illustration of the larger point that he's making with this clever-dick quiz: our failure to remember things necessitates the constant refreshment of our memory, which, far from being a burden, is a good thing: "a polishing of the pipe, like El Dorado's throat", in his characteristically memorable phrase.

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 18.07.07 at 14:27
Fredrick Raphael (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederic_Raphael) has mounted a terrifically robust defence of Clive and Cultural Amnesia in  the July issue (http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=9657) of Prospect

http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/usr/issues_pictures/615.gif

=============================================================
The essence of Cliveness
Clive James's compendium of short essays shows him at his most democratic, irreverent and dazzling. Even the flaws seem to be there for a purpose—to make the reader feel slightly less ignorant
Frederic Raphael
________________________________________

Cultural Amnesia, by Clive James
(Picador, £25)

Halfway through this monumental catalogue raisonné of the writings in Clive James's life, and library, I inadvertently broke protocol and read a chunk of what another reviewer had said about it. In a spasm of reheated little Englandism, AN Wilson cosied up to his public by assuring them that he had never heard of Witold Gombrowicz, who, he jeered, sounded fictional. Letting philistines off the hook of their monoglot complacency is a speciality of parochial critics, from FR Leavis to Kingsley Amis and on down. No surprise to discover that Wilson regarded as wearisome old hat James's long obsession with the somewhat parallel histories of Nazism and communism. Trailing along with the prevailing cant, Wilson concluded that today's American cultural domination was much more alarming than what was done, ages ago now, by one set of people with funny foreign names to a capsized raft of others—Friedell, Kraus, Schnitzler, Freud—whose work Clive James presents as of lasting importance. You don't have to be a working paranoiac to suspect, in today's anti-Americanism, a mutation of the old Nazi charge of...

=============================================================

This is a far as the reader can go without suscribing to either the magazine or the article. I'm sure that some readers will probably think that £2.00 is hardly too big a price to pay for this and another article. Those who do may like to try the local library for Prospect. Some libraries do have it on their periodical shelves.

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 18.07.07 at 20:15
My apologies to Frederic Raphael (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederic_Raphael) for subtracting an"e" adding a "k" when writing his christian name in todays posting.

Put it down to the fact that I was probably conflating the character played by Geoffrey Keen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Keen) in a handful of the James Bond movies - sometimes listed as the Minister of Defence and sometimes as Fredrick Gray - with a spelling I came across in a reference to in the credits for the TV sitcom Of Mycenae And Men (http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/guide/articles/o/ofmycenaeandmen_1299002386.shtml).  

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 06.08.07 at 08:31
The prize-winning American journalist and commentator Bill Moyers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Moyers) has interviewed Clive (http://www.netscape.com/viewstory/2007/08/04/bill-moyers-talks-with-cultural-critic-clive-james/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.pbs.org%2Fmoyers%2Fjournal%2F08032007%2Fwatch2.html&frame=true) for his highly influential Bill Moyers Journal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Moyers_Journal), the weekly interview and news programme that, after a twenty-five year hiatus, recently returned as part of PBS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PBS) *programming.

I've not had an opportunity to watch the broadcast yet, so I cannot comment on it.

Kevin Cryan

*Public Broadcasting Service (America)

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 11.08.07 at 18:54

on 08/06/07 at 08:31:17, Kevin Cryan wrote :
The prize-winning American journalist and commentator Bill Moyers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Moyers) has interviewed Clive (http://www.netscape.com/viewstory/2007/08/04/bill-moyers-talks-with-cultural-critic-clive-james/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.pbs.org%2Fmoyers%2Fjournal%2F08032007%2Fwatch2.html&frame=true) for his highly influential Bill Moyers Journal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Moyers_Journal), the weekly interview and news programme that, after a twenty-five year hiatus, recently returned as part of PBS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PBS) *programming. .......................

Kevin Cryan

*Public Broadcasting Service (America)


There is a full transcript of that evening's broadcast here (http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/08032007/transcript4.html)

Kevin Cryan


Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 13.08.07 at 11:41
At the beginning of what turns out to be a favourable review (http://home.vicnet.net.au/%7Eabr/Current/July07fraserreview.htm) of Cultural Amnesia, written for the current issue of the independent (and not-for-profit) magazine, Australian Book Review (http://www.australianbookreview.com.au/), the Australian academic and commentator Morag Frazer (http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/author.asp?id=303) has this to say:

Conversation is the raison d’être of this monumental monologue. But you might not think so if you read only the reviews. Splenetic, green-sick criticism – and there has been plenty of it – insists that what Clive James has built out of a life’s voracious reading and careful noticing – his ‘notes in the margin’ – is a platform for his ego. Not so. But how ruthlessly we skin our own.

Cultural Amnesia, as I read it, is a book of invitation, not dictation. Yes, it is daunting in length and ambition: a digressive, eccentric articulation of a profoundly held credo of humanism (‘our best reason for having minds at all’). It is a prodigious amateur’s scan of the culture and politics of the twentieth century, a century made even more terrible than the calamitous fourteenth, with its plagues and wars, because our modern science and technology enabled mass murder, and because a coincidence of evil gave us human monsters avid in the systematic annihilation of their own kind. And yes, because James writes about what he most loves, hates and fears rather than about his academic or professional specialism (though there is an impressive quantity of the latter in the anatomising of writing and performance), the volume of conversation is sometimes turned up so high you can’t hear your own voice. Verbal shot put takes over from Viennese café conversation. But not for long, and not for keeps. The dominie* impulse in James is more the reflex of an impassioned teacher than the edict of a megalomaniac. He wants to show you the whole world, not take it away from you, or take you out of it…………



This is a sympathetic review that is worth reading in its entirety, and more than once.

Kevin Cryan

* (school)mastering is as close a I can get to interpreting adjective. (K.C)

Concise Oxford Dictionary
dominie // n. Sc.

a schoolmaster.
[later spelling of domine ‘sir’, vocative of Latin dominus ‘lord’]

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 03.09.07 at 19:44
A lengthy feature (http://www.listener.co.nz/issue/3513/features/9548/just_watch_me.html) about Clive and the genesis of Cultural Amnesia, written by Diana Wichtel, appears in the September 8th to 14th print edition of the New Zealand Listener (http://www.listener.co.nz/).

A full transcript of the piece will be available (free?) online on the 22-Sep-2007.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 06.09.07 at 10:29
It's good to see that Cultural Amnesia continues to be read and taken seriously by its  America readers. In today's edition of Washington Times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Washington_Times) the paper's Cultural Briefs columnist quotes (http://washingtontimes.com/article/20070906/CULTURE/109060067/1015) with obvious approval from blogger Richard John Neuhaus:

Rhetorical gas

"I have mentioned before Clive James' book of mini-essays on intellectuals of the last hundred years, Cultural Amnesia. He really does not like Jean-Paul Sartre, who was lionized by so many for so long. James blames Sartre's prewar period in Berlin, and especially the influence of Heidegger.

" 'In Sartre's style of argument, German metaphysics met French sophistry in a kind of European Coal and Steel Community producing nothing but rhetorical gas.' But wait, he is just warming up. '[Sartre] might have known that he was debarred by nature from telling the truth for long about anything that mattered, because telling the truth was something that ordinary men did, and his urge to be extraordinary was, for him, more of a motive force than merely to see the world as it was.' ...

'Working by a sure instinct for bogus language, a non-philosopher like George Orwell could call Sartre's political writings a heap of beans, but there were few professional thinkers anywhere who found it advisable to dismiss Sartre's air of intelligence: There was too great a risk of being called unintelligent themselves.' "

— Richard John Neuhaus, writing on the Public Square blog at First Things


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 11.09.07 at 06:59
"Just in time for today’s anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, critic Clive James has arrived with a book that reminds us of what the West is fighting to preserve" says today's Opinion column (http://www.2theadvocate.com/opinion/9702382.html) of the Louisiana newspaper The Advocate (http://www.2theadvocate.com/)

James is a native of Australia, resident of London and a man of the world whose work is respected on both sides of the Atlantic. He’s written widely on politics, theater, television, film, music and literature, all with a keen eye toward what the arts say about the larger culture.

“Cultural Amnesia” is James’ great summing up of what’s he’s learned in more than 40 years as a professional observer of popular culture.
His book is an antidote to the ominous suggestion of the title — that we in the West might be in danger of forgetting the great cultural traditions which stand at the center of who we are.

But as James quickly points out, the way we think and live in a free society can’t be summarized too neatly, and that’s exactly what scares the kind of fundamental extremists who decided, as James puts it, “to fly our own airliners into towers of commerce.”

James has this to say about our enemies and the best way to fight them:
“What they hate is the bewildering complexity of civilized life, which we will find hard to defend if we share the same aversion. We shouldn’t. There is too much to appreciate. If it can’t be sorted into satisfactory categories, that should make us take heart: it wouldn’t be the work of human beings if it could.”

James notes that while the age of the totalitarian state seems to be on the wane, totalitarianism, “however, is not over. It survives as residues, some of them all the more virulent because they are no longer hemmed in by borders; and some of them are within our own borders ... democracy deserved, and still deserves, to prevail.”
That is a timely message to keep in mind today as the world pauses to remember the villainy of what happened to our country on Sept. 11, 2001.
-30-


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Tiny_Montgomery on 13.09.07 at 21:31
Cultural Amnesia is reviewed in this week's TLS by Adam Bresnick; an admiring, but not uncritical notice.

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 13.09.07 at 23:31
And, for the time being, that TLS review is available (http://tls.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,25341-2649282,00.html) without your having to go through a pay wall.


Kevin Cryan


Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 14.09.07 at 09:10

on 09/13/07 at 21:31:24, Tiny_Montgomery wrote :
Cultural Amnesia is reviewed in this week's TLS by Adam Bresnick; an admiring, but not uncritical notice.


Here are a few notes which may help those who are even less familiar with Montaigne (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_de_Montaigne)'s work than I am read the rather opaque opening paragraph of Adam Bresnick's otherwise thoughtful and admirable TLS essay.

QUOTE
"In 1576, having sought refuge from public life and taken up residence in the library of his family estate near Bordeaux, Michel de Montaigne gave instructions for an engraved medal to be placed on a wall above his writing desk: Que sais-je?* This admonishment to be sceptical in the face of received knowledge was to be Montaigne’s motto during the composition of the Essais, the great record of his mind over the last two decades of his life. “Ainsi, lecteur, je suis moi-même la matière de mon livre”, cautions Montaigne; “ce n’est pas raison que tu employes ton loisir en un subject si frivole et si vain.”** A finer example of what the rhetoricians call praeteritio*** could hardly be found, as Montaigne’s winking warning invites the reader to accompany him on a kind of holiday journey as he embarks on the thrilling endeavour of sketching the intellectual terrain of Renaissance humanism. "

NOTES

*     What am I?


**   Thus, reader, I am myself the matter of my book: it is not reasonable that you employ your leisure on a subject so frivolous and vain.

***pretended omission for rhetorical effect.

Example 1

That part of our history detailing the military achievements which gave us our several possessions ... is a theme too familiar to my listeners for me to dilate on, and I shall therefore pass it by. Thucydides, "Funeral Oration"

Example 2

Let us make no judgment on the events of Chappaquiddick, since the facts are not yet all in. A political opponent of Senator Edward Kennedy

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 17.09.07 at 10:38
I personally find it heartening when I see that people who main interest in life is not literature, or the arts in general, are willing to show that they are widely read and are not afraid of saying so to anyone who will listen. So when, for instance, Jesse Cohen (http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/19993/Jesse_Cohen/index.aspx), a science writer and editor of some repute, posts this recommendation to his The Gramophone and Typewriter Company (http://thegramophoneandtypewritercompany.blogspot.com/) online diary, I am inclined to pay a little more attention to what he has to say than I would to what someone whose prime interest is the liberal arts has to say.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

On Clive James (http://thegramophoneandtypewritercompany.blogspot.com/2007/09/on-clive-james.html)


Adam Bresnick is a legendary English teacher at New York's Collegiate School (my alma mater, although he started teaching after I had been graduated). His take on Clive James in the Times Literary Supplement is perceptive and keen--and worth a read.

Unforgetting with Clive James - TLS Highlights - Times Online (http://tls.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,25341-2649282,00.html)

....................................
Posted by Jesse at 3:17 PM (http://thegramophoneandtypewritercompany.blogspot.com/2007/09/on-clive-james.html)

Labels: Clive James
(http://thegramophoneandtypewritercompany.blogspot.com/search/label/Clive%20James)






Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 22.09.07 at 13:30

on 09/13/07 at 21:31:24, Tiny_Montgomery wrote :
Cultural Amnesia is reviewed in this week's TLS by Adam Bresnick; an admiring, but not uncritical notice.


This is an interesting way of reading, or should I say of not reading, Cultural Amnesia.

CULTURAL AMNESIA: ADAM BRESNICK ON CLIVE JAMES (http://paeditorsblog.blogspot.com/2007/09/cultural-amnesia-adam-bresnick-on-clive.html)
by Thomas Riggins

Clive James' "Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the margin of my time" is 896 pages long and made up of 106 essays ranging over the cultural and historical debris of the 20th century. It is reviewed by Adam Bresnick in the TLS for 9-14-2007.

In a busy world with zillions of books should you invest your time in reading this gigantic tome? If the review is any indication of the contents of the book I would say both yes and no. It depends on your intellectual commitments. Clive is supposedly a "humanist" and opposes the hoary and meaningless abstraction of "totalitarianism." He appears, from the review, to be merely a conservative pro-imperialist intellectual snob. If you like that kind of writing this is the book for you.

You will learn that "Soviet communism and Nazi fascism are obverse sides of the same murderous coin." History doesn't appear to be one of James' strong points. He should read Isaac Deutscher's "Stalin" to find out the differences between a system dedicated to war, conquest and genocide and one that ended up brutal and backwards due to trying to improve the world without the material and moral means of doing so. The Catholic Church produced both St. Francis* and Torquemada*. The Soviet system produced its share of both but the Nazi's were Torquemada down the line.

James writes the following idiotic observation (based on reading cold war hacks such as Raymond Aron), "The liberal believes in the permanence of humanity's imperfection; he resigns himself to a regime in which the good will be the result of numberless actions, and never the result of conscious choice." So, I won't join the the Society for the Abolition of Slavery because I would be making a conscious choice and should rather rely on the numberless actions, presumedly of "good" masters, to bring about some improvements in the imperfection of humanity. James may have a great "style" but he has a sponge for a brain.

Even Bresnick, who approves of the book and this way of thinking is forced to admit that "Jamie's literary and musical sensibility may be problematically conservative" [tastewise that is] and that sometimes he "gets carried away with himself [phrase making]" and also at times it is difficult "to take James seriously" (he seems not to have understood "Paradise Lost").

All in all this seems to be a book by a gifted stylist and intellectual narcissist whose understanding of the world is warped by ruling class cold war ideology masquerading as a profound understanding of reality. Don't waste your time on this one.


It’ll come as no surprise at this point that Thomas Riggins (http://www.blogger.com/profile/01134918311479627762), the author of this piece, leans somewhat to the left. If the attempted apologia for what happened in the Soviet Union did not tip the reader off, then the  “this seems to be a book by a gifted stylist and intellectual narcissist whose understanding of the world is warped by ruling class cold war ideology masquerading as a profound understanding of reality” sentence gives the whole game away. Nor will it come as much of a surprise to the reader to find that he is in fact of the editors of the American online Marxist magazine Political Affairs.***


Kevin Cryan

*St. Francis of Assisi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_of_Assisi)

**Tomás de Torquemada (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom%C3%A1s_de_Torquemada)

***Political Affairs - A Marxist Monthly (http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/static/17/1/3/)
Political Affairs is a monthly magazine of ideology, politics, and culture. Our mission is to go beyond simply giving an account of events to providing analysis and investigating what is new and changing in our world -- from a working-class point of view.

In the pages of PA we start from the most basic fact of life: the ongoing struggle between the working class and the capitalist class. This conflict happens in the workplace, in the government, the courts, on the streets, but also in the realm of ideas. We publish stories on the struggle to defeat George W. Bush and his gang of far-right thugs, the labor movement, the battle for racial justice, the end to war and imperialism, women's equality, the fight against homophobia, and working-class views of popular culture and mass media.

While we are partisan, Marxism is not the private property of any person or group. We print a wide variety of views in our quest for truth. Discussion and debate are the only ways to develop better and more useful ideas to defeat the far right, strengthen working people, and build democracy. Political Affairs is a publication of the Communist Party, USA.

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Mike Walters on 23.09.07 at 06:35

Code:
Don't waste your time on this one.


Well, fair enough, I suppose.  It's clear that Riggins didn't waste any of his...


Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Tiny_Montgomery on 26.09.07 at 22:03
And oddly, for an avowed Philip Larkin fan, Clive James wrongly hyphenates Church Going in Cultural Amnesia.

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 26.09.07 at 23:08
"It was very, very hard to write and very difficult to edit – and we're still editing it."
"It's got misprints in six languages. It's been very hard work....."
Clive James to The Dominion Post (http://www.stuff.co.nz/4210097a24224.html)


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 03.10.07 at 22:04
I’m not certain that I should approve of this, but an Italian blog, Editoriali & altro...* (http://www.terzotriennio.blogspot.com/) has reprinted an article (http://terzotriennio.blogspot.com/2007/10/900-eroi-infami-e-redenti.html) about the publication of Cultural Amnesia which the original publisher Corriere Della Sera (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corriere_della_Sera), is releasing willing to pay a small fee of € 5,00.. (http://archivio.corriere.it/archiveDocumentServlet.jsp?url=/documenti_globnet/corsera/2007/08/co_9_070814032.xml)

The writer does appear to have read the book and has certainly done homework on Clive.

I do rather like how, in the last paragraph, without feeling any way superior, or without making apologies, the writer accepts what he or she thinks Clive is saying.

“Appassionato lettore di Croce, chiude il capitolo a lui intitolato con un’acuta notazione sulla differenza che separa noi italiani dagli anglosassoni. "In Italia c’è sempre un filosofo da leggere prima di leggere qualsiasi altra cosa, perfino il manuale di istruzioni di un nuovo modello di lavatrice".

(A Passionate reader of Croce, he (Clive) closes the chapter on him with note that what separates us Italians from the Anglo-Saxon is that "In Italy Croce is always a philosopher to read before we read any other thing, even the instruction manual for a new model of washing machine".)

 

Kevin Cryan


*Editorials & other things...




Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 25.11.07 at 14:46
Cultural Amnesiahas made on to only one newspaper's recommended Christmas reading list I've seen so far, that which appeared in online edition of The Telegraph (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daily_Telegraph) yesterday.

Christmas books: Letters and essays (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2007/11/24/bomemoir124.xml)

Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 24/11/2007

Helen Brown curls up with the revealing correspondence and inspiring essays of the great and the good

While resting solid on tummies full of all the trimmings, collections of letters and essays are perfect Christmas reading. When you tire of your own family squabbles, you can comfort yourself with the bickerings of the great and the good.

The two heftiest collections this year - John Updike's Due Considerations (Hamish Hamilton, £30, T £26) and Clive James's Cultural Amnesia (Picador, £25, T £23) - begin with endearing apologies for their physical and intellectual breadth.

"I had hoped," writes Updike, "that, thanks to the dwindling powers of old age, the bulk would be significantly smaller than that of the two previous assemblages, Odd Jobs (1991) and More Matter (1999)."

But he found there was "no escaping the accumulated weight of my daily exertions". Lucky for us. This marvellously smart collection of musings on cars, poker and sex, and essays on English and American literature, let me get to know one of my favourite authors on his own account.

Those who know Clive James best as a TV funny man might find themselves struck by the grandiose tone he takes in his doorstopping Cultural Amnesia.

At times, the Australian is at pains to prove his academic credentials. These "Notes in the Margin of my Time" are arranged alphabetically. He begins with a cursory essay on the Russian poet and "broken-nosed beauty" Anna Akhmatova and ends with a heartfelt re-evaluation of the Viennese writer Stefan Zweig.

In between, he writes on Einstein, Freud, Kafka, Mailer, the Manns (Heinrich, Thomas and Michael), Trotsky and Vargas Llosa, the last of whom he regards as the writer who "best exemplified the course of the relationship between literature and politics in the late 20th-century".....[link] (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2007/11/24/bomemoir124.xml)



Kevin Cryan

PS. My fellow countryman, and onetime Observer TV critic, John Nauguton (http://www.briefhistory.com/), in his blog (http://memex.naughtons.org/), freqyently refers to The Telegraph as The Torygraph. It's rather a neat way of saying just what he thinks of the paper.

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 28.11.07 at 22:14
Clive's Cultural Amnesia  essay on Karl Kraus, the turn-of-the-century Viennese coffee-house wit who died in 1936 and was therefore spared the horrors of World War II, is one of the 27 essays included in The Best Australian Essays 2007 (http://www.penguin.com.au/lookinside/spotlight.cfm?SBN=9781863954198), edited by Drusilla Modjeska and published by Black Inc.


....the often unexpected arguments and wide-ranging subjects of these essays do indeed seem to merit the reckless superlative of the title.

eurekastreet.com.au (http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=3862)
http://www.penguin.com.au/covers-jpg/9781863954198.jpg



Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 30.11.07 at 06:42
The New York Times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_York_Times) has chosen Cultural Amnesia, which it reviewed the 8th of April 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/08/books/review/Schillinger.t.html) as one of the
100 Notable Books of 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/books/review/notable-books-2007.html?_r=1&oref=slogin)



Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 30.11.07 at 07:22

on 11/30/07 at 06:42:53, Kevin Cryan wrote :
The New York Times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_York_Times) has chosen Cultural Amnesia, which it reviewed the 8th of April 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/08/books/review/Schillinger.t.html) as one of the
100 Notable Books of 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/books/review/notable-books-2007.html?_r=1&oref=slogin)



Kevin Cryan


This should have read:

The New York Times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_York_Times) has chosen Cultural Amnesia, which it reviewed the 8th of April 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/08/books/review/Schillinger.t.html), as one of the
100 Notable Books of 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/books/review/notable-books-2007.html?_r=1&oref=slogin)


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 02.12.07 at 15:40
http://www.peteatkin.com/images/cultams.jpg It’s not very often you come upon a  book’s cover design being reviewed in anything other than a book-trade periodical. However, the Louise Fili strikingly designed dust-jacket for the hardback edition of Clive's Cultural Amnesia has got a review all of its own from former book designer Mary Cregan in the Books section (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ea988ed2-9c78-11dc-bcd8-0000779fd2ac.html) of yesterday’s Financial Times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_Times).

It’s interesting in that it shows what can be achieved when a writer is being served by an editor as thoughtfully sympathetic as Robert Weil, who is Clive’s editor at Norton.


Kevin Cryan

PS.

Steve has helpfully placed this on the home page of Smash Flops (http://www.peteatkin.com/pa.htm)
http://www.peteatkin.com/images/behrenscolours.jpg .
A.E.G (Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gessellschaft) (http://www.peteatkin.com/images/behrenscolours.jpg) by Peter Behrens (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Behrens)


Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 05.12.07 at 08:38

on 11/30/07 at 07:22:05, Kevin Cryan wrote :
........

The New York Times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_York_Times) has chosen Cultural Amnesia, which it reviewed the 8th of April 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/08/books/review/Schillinger.t.html), as one of the
100 Notable Books of 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/books/review/notable-books-2007.html?_r=1&oref=slogin)


Kevin Cryan



I have just noticed that it's the non-fiction part of The New Yorks Times  100 Notable Books of 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/books/review/notable-books-2007.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin) that's being talked about (http://www.hecaitou.com/?p=2548) in China. Is there anybody out there who can explain why this might be?


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 06.12.07 at 13:08
Extract from the current issue of The Village Voice (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Village_Voice)

"....
The Best of 2007 (http://www.villagevoice.com/books/0749,asdf,78504,10.html)
Voice writers pick their favorite 20 books of the year
December 4th, 2007 6:37 PM……

....
Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories From History and the Arts
by Clive James
W.W. Norton, 768 pp., $35
Cultural Amnesia is possibly the first collection of criticism to deal with both Mao Zedong ("The rediscoveries [of Mao's atrocities] were succeeded by a further forgetting, and the same holds true today") and Tony Curtis ("His Sidney Falco is one of the definitive performances of the American cinema: the galvanic answer to the perennial question of what makes Sammy run"). Not to mention just about everything in between: Mario Vargas Llosa, Dick Cavett, G.K. Chesterton, and Raymond Aron are raised aloft; Walter Benjamin, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Leon Trotsky take hits from which their reputations will never recover. James is the greatest cultural critic of our time; he's what you'd get if you crossed the DNA strands of Edmund Wilson and Pauline Kael. ALLEN BARRA
...."



Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 06.12.07 at 21:14

on 11/30/07 at 07:22:05, Kevin Cryan wrote :
The New York Times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_York_Times) has chosen Cultural Amnesia, which it reviewed the 8th of April 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/08/books/review/Schillinger.t.html), as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/books/review/notable-books-2007.html?_r=1&oref=slogin)


Kevin Cryan


It did not make it into the NYT's 10 Best books of 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/09/books/review/10-best-2007.html?pagewanted=all) which is to be published in print form on Sunday the 9th of December.

However, this piece from the Arts & Culture section of this week's Sacramento News Review (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacramento_News_&_Review) puts this omission in perspective.

"Agree, or don't. (http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/Content?oid=604418)

By Kel Munger
kelm@newsreview.com
….
The New York Times 10 Best Books of 2007 list will be published in the December 9 edition of their Book Review section, and is already online now. It's an important list; most of the titles traditionally get a bump in sales from all the people looking for book gift ideas.

But not everyone's taste leans the NYT way, and while we've got a lot of admiration for "the gray lady"—especially her commitment to book reviewing and reporting—we beg to differ with some of the choices. So SN&R's staff critics (which basically amounts to, in addition to the usual suspects, everyone in the editorial department) joined in to offer up our choices for the best books of 2007.

Feel free to argue with us; we'd love nothing more, contentious pack that we are. Or don't argue, and just take the list along when you go off to do your holiday shopping at the nearest independent local bookstore.
....

And from Jonathan Kiefer, not a list, but a rant (because he's the kind of guy who just can't be saddled with a silly old format):
....
Which brings me to Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts, by the unrepentant highbrow Clive James (Norton). This hefty 876-page tome amounts to a syllabus, yes, but what a syllabus. Can any book written in this or any year provide as direct a route to real enlightenment as James' assembly of wise, funny, passionate, personal, erudite, creative, curious, humanist biographical sketches of relevant cultural figures from the past hundred-odd years? To take a random-sample handful of its subjects, there's Freud, Duke Ellington, Beatrix Potter, Tony Curtis, Anna Akhmatova, and G.K. Chesteron, who coined what would seem to be Cultural Amnesia's modus operandi: "to set a measure to praise and blame, and to support the classics against the fashions." This book serves my craft, my life."


"This book serves my craft, my life" Wow!!!!


Kevin Cryan


Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 24.12.07 at 10:50
Excerpt from The Washington Post's Holiday Guide (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/artsandliving/features/2007/holiday-guide/gifts/book-world-holiday-issue/index.html) published the 2nd of December 2007.


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Book World's Holiday Issue


We pick the best books of 2007, the ones that will keep you turning pages all winter long.

[bgcolor=Gray]Nonfiction[/bgcolor] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/artsandliving/features/2007/holiday-guide/gifts/book-world-holiday-issue/index.html) [bgcolor=Gray]Fiction (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/artsandliving/features/2007/holiday-guide/gifts/book-world-holiday-issue/index.html)[/bgcolor]  [bgcolor=Gray]Top Ten Books of 2007 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/artsandliving/features/2007/holiday-guide/gifts/book-world-holiday-issue/index.html )[/bgcolor] [bgcolor=Gray]Critic's Picks (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/artsandliving/features/2007/holiday-guide/gifts/book-world-holiday-issue/index.html)[/bgcolor]

Excerpts from the 100 most favorable nonfiction reviews of the year.

[bgcolor=Green]Arts[/bgcolor]

Cultural Amnesia (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/17/AR2007051702469.html), by Clive James (Norton). Possesses the magic touch for knocking usurpers like Sartre off their pedestals. The warts are few, the all is absorbing. - John Simon

Dark Victory, (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/08/AR2007110801971.html) by Ed Sikov (Henry Holt). A refreshingly unsentimental and unapologetic biography of Bette Davis. - Charles Matthews

The House That George Built, (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/28/AR2007062802133.html) by Wilfrid Sheed (RH). Emphasizes Gershwin's singular generosity to other composers and musicians and eloquently defends him against his highbrow critics. - JY

Lost Genius, (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/11/AR2007101101936.html) by Kevin Bazzana (C&G). Even if your interest in classical music is elementary or - shame on you - merely perfunctory, the book offers elegance and fun. -MD

The Rest Is Noise (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/23/AR2007112300487.html), by Alex Ross (FSG). The best general study of the complex history of 20th century music. Itis an impressive, invigorating achievement. - Stephen Walsh

The Shakespeare Riots, (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/18/AR2007051800063.html) by Nigel Cliff (RH). In 1849, more than 10,000 New Yorkers faced off against city police outside the Astor Place Opera House. The flashpoint of the riot was Shakespeare. Cliff turns this most improbable episode of history into a lively and compelling drama. - Daniel Stashower

The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein, (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/19/AR2007041902058.html) by Martin Duberman (Knopf). A superb biography of a man who early on recognized that literature and the fine arts donit need only creative spirits, they also need champions. - MD


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Kevin Cryan


Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 29.12.07 at 16:51
From today’s edition of The Guardian.


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Hand picked: Part 1 (http://books.guardian.co.uk/booksoftheyear2007/story/0,,2232916,00.html)

You've read the critics' and writers' books of the year, so what did you most enjoy in 2007? Read Part 2 here (http://books.guprod.gnl/review/story/0,,2232903,00.html)*

Saturday December 29, 2007
The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/)
............................

Sam Banik
London
Clive James's Cultural Amnesia (Picador) is an excellent anthology of essays on the lives and works of many luminaries who have shaped our social, political and cultural consciousness over a hundred years. In A Writer's People (Picador), the Nobel laureate VS Naipaul reminisces about the literati, here and abroad, about his younger days in Trinidad and the "ways of looking and feeling" in a mutating world. As always, Naipaul is a joy to read, although his remark about India having no autonomous intellectual life will off end many people.
.............



>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

* This link does not appear to be working presently - KC

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 29.12.07 at 18:54
The ever-interesting blogger, Kevin Breathnach, posted this to is  Disillusioned Lefty (http://disillusionedlefty.blogspot.com/2007/12/one-meaning-of-recognition.ht) diary today

http://img88.imageshack.us/img88/3756/banner5wm2xn.jpg


One Meaning of Recognition

Published Saturday, December 29, 2007 by Kevin Breathnach | E-mail this post  
<<Home (http://disillusionedlefty.blogspot.com/)                                                       Christmas Shock>> (http://disillusionedlefty.blogspot.com/2007/12/christmas-shock.html)

   The book of my enemy (http://torch.cs.dal.ca/~johnston/poetry/bookofmyenemy.html) has been remaindered
   And I am pleased.
   In vast quantities it has been remaindered
   Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
   And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
   My enemy's much-prized effort sits in piles
   In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.
   Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles
   One passes down reflecting on life's vanities,
   Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews
   Lavished to no avail upon one's enemy's book --
   For behold, here is that book
   Among these ranks and banks of duds,
   These ponderous and seeminly irreducible cairns
   Of complete stiffs.

Months ago, Clive James launched an attack (http://disillusionedlefty.blogspot.com/2007/08/cultural-amnesia.html) on the reputation of (amongst others) one Jean-Paul Sartre. Only weeks ago, though, the (Irish) ghost of that Sartre might well have been pleased. Not only had Cultural Amnesia been remaindered, it had been remaindered in great abundance and with considerable vigour to boot - a 200% price reduction. Something changed. For it now sits proudly (back at full price) in even greater abundance at the very top of the chart (in Hodges & Figgis, at least). It was sold-out, moreover, in every Dublin bookshop a week before Christmas. Something changed, indeed.

Pat Rabbitte (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Rabbitte)* recommended the book on radio, is what changed. And just this once, the public listened to Rabbitte, who has clearly found himself with more free time since his departure from the top at Labour. Nothing changed, at all. Hell is still other people.

Labels: books, (http://disillusionedlefty.blogspot.com/search/label/books) clive james, (http://disillusionedlefty.blogspot.com/search/label/clive%20james) pat rabbitte, (http://disillusionedlefty.blogspot.com/search/label/pat%20rabbitte) sartre

*My link KC (http://disillusionedlefty.blogspot.com/search/label/Sartre)


Can anyone imagine something similar happening this side of the Irish Sea?  People rushing out to buy what a politician says he's reading? Don't all answer at once.

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by BogusTrumper on 29.12.07 at 20:33

on 12/29/07 at 18:54:51, Kevin Cryan wrote :
Can anyone imagine something similar happening this side of the Irish Sea?  People rushing out to buy what a politician says he's reading? Don't all answer at once.

Kevin Cryan


Over this side of the Ocean I am not sure our president CAN read   :(

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by naomi on 29.12.07 at 21:23
On the wider subject of politics, politicians and books: Michael Foot may have not been the most successful leader that the Labour Party has had - but he must be its greatest living bibliophile. There can't be many - to put it politely - of today's leadership who could engage us about writers as Mr Foot has done with his championing of Heinrich Heine (to whom I myself am devoted), William Hazlitt and Lord Byron.

And as for influencing action, who could top Mr Foot's classic 1941 book Guilty Men in which, under the pen-name "Cato", he excoriated those who had appeased the Nazis?

Naomi

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 02.01.08 at 10:28
I cannot recall a time when Rob Spence (http://www.blogger.com/profile/11647405720597546140), who is, I believe, still a Midnight Voices'  member, has ever made a contribution to the discussions we have had on this site. After you have read this  entry (http://spencro.blogspot.com/2007/12/cultural-amnesia.html) into his on-line diary, I think that you will understand why I, for one, wish he would become a little more vocal.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Monday, December 31, 2007
Cultural Amnesia

http://bp1.blogger.com/_J8oS5sqlCU8/R3p5-AdhdxI/AAAAAAAAAFY/Fh01zaQzGAA/s320/9780330481748-01.jpg

"It is so immense, I have no words for it" was T.S. Eliot's reaction to Wyndham Lewis's The Apes of God (http://www.gingkopress.com/_cata/_lite/wl-apes.htm). Old Tom was possibly just relieved that he had escaped being skewered on Lewis's satirical blade, unlike virtually everyone else in the precious hothouse world of the London literary scene in the twenties. I had a similarly awed response when reading Clive James's magnum opus (which it is, in every sense) Cultural Amnesia (http://www.panmacmillan.com/Titles/displayPage.asp?PageTitle=Individual%20Title&BookID=384938). The avid reader (there must be one) of this blog will know of my admiration for Clive, founded initially on his lyrics to Pete Atkin's music. He has been, away from the TV screen, one of the most important cultural critics of our times, and his post -TV career seems dedicated to cementing that position. Recent books of essays, such as Even As We Speak, (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Even-as-Speak-Clive-James/dp/033049306X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1199105531&sr=8-2) seem to me to represent all that is best in the critic's art. The autobiographical work is just hugely enjoyable, and the poetry (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Book-My-Enemy-Collected-1958-2003/dp/0330432052/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1199105599&sr=1-7) at its best is playfully serious, formally adventurous, thought-provoking and beautifully observed. It's not surprising that the jacket of Cultural Amnesia repeats the oft-quoted New Yorker assessment "Clive James is a brilliant bunch of guys" to point out the breadth of his achievements, but really that isn't adequate to characterise this latest volume.

I know from the estimable Pete Atkin (http://www.peteatkin.com/pa.htm) website run by Steve Birkill that the original title for the book was "Alone in the Cafe" and that gives a clue to the process of composition. The author says that the book is based on his reading during time off (often in cafes) from all the other activities for which he's known over the last forty years; his marginal notes form the germ of these pieces. The eventual title refers to the necessity to resist the "cultural amnesia" which, in the era of increasing homogenisation, forgets that complex and vibrant mental world of twentieth century creative life.

The book is organised as a series of essays, alphabetically arranged according to the author of the quotation around which each essay is constructed. The focus is on those who shaped our culture in the twentieth century, so some names are the ones you might expect: Wittgenstein, Proust, Freud. And because James is concerned with those who had a negative effect, it's not really surprising to see Hitler, Goebbels and Mao there too. But would you have expected Beatrix Potter, Terry Gilliam and W.C. Fields? Probably not. There's a noticeably European (and non-English flavour) to the figures chosen, too. Starting with the cafe culture of old Vienna, James is not shy of advancing the claims of some figures many of us might not have heard of. Would you recognise Peter Altenberg, Karl Tschuppik or Miguel de Unamuno? No, thought not. Yet James makes a very convincing case for the importance of these figures. He isn't shy of using non-twentieth century characters either- so Tacitus, Sir Thomas Browne and John Keats are all in there.

The essays are not, though, biographical, and are not, quite often, about the person whose name appears at the top of the page. Rather, the essays are about the issues raised by a particular quotation of that writer. Thus, the Thomas Browne chapter is largely about using quotations as titles; the Arthur Schnitzler chapter is, hilariously, mostly about Richard Burton's hairstyle in Where Eagles Dare; and the Terry Gilliam chapter is about state-sponsored torture.

At the heart of the book, and infusing every line, is the passionate desire to assert the value of humanism, as it has been developed by the thinkers and artists of Western civilisation. The alphabetical arrangement makes for a serendipitous juxtapositioning of disparate figures- Michael Mann is sandwiched between Heinrich and Thomas Mann, and Tony Curtis rubs shoulders with Benedetto Croce. The emphasis on the Jewish writers of mittel-Europa is entirely justified by James's advocacy of these (to me, at any rate) little-known figures. I now have a growing "to-read" list starting with Egon Friedell, and then Ernst Curtius, Alfred Polgar, Stefan Zweig and ... and...

Clive James is nothing if not opinionated, and I was pleased to see some of the darlings of Theory brushed aside: Lacan, Kristeva and Baudrillard are described as "artistes in the flouncing kick-line of the post-modern intellectual cabaret."

A couple of quibbles: for a book that acknowledges the work of two editors, and a copy-editor, there are too many typos. Clive James is a stickler for accuracy, so the reader winces at incorrect spellings of German words, "English" rendered with a lower-case e, and other infelicities. There's also some repetition, understandable considering the piecemeal creative process, but avoidable if the editors were doing their job. A good joke about the special bullets used in films, which miraculously avoid hitting the hero, is not improved by being repeated. And there is some contentiousness about the often rather brutal moral judgements. 'Er indoors (sorry: Doctor 'Er Indoors) thought the assessment of Ernst Jünger was harsh, for instance. But these are minor blemishes on a very important work.

http://bp0.blogger.com/_J8oS5sqlCU8/R3p3nwdhdwI/AAAAAAAAAFQ/60Guks6DC0E/s320/CJ.jpeg


The old Everyman editions used to quote Edmund Gosse: "A cosmic convulsion might utterly destroy all printed works in the world, and still if a complete set of Everyman's Library floated upon the waters enough would be preserved to carry on the unbroken tradition of literature." I think that if Cultural Amnesia, and all the books mentioned therein, were to survive, we could make a similar claim. Spend that Christmas book token on this.

Posted by Rob Spence at 12:36 PM  


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


Kevin Cryan




Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Rob Spence on 02.01.08 at 11:50
Well, here I am!
I think I did make some postings ages ago, but you are right, I haven't been as vocal a voice as I should be. I really enjoyed Cultural Amnesia, which I take to be a massively important book, and one which deserves the widest circulation. The paperback is out in May- hope they have sorted those typos out by then.
Next time the muse strikes me with anything of an Atkin-James persuasion, I'll make sure I post here as well as on the blog.
Cheers to all MVs for a happy new year.
Rob

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by BogusTrumper on 02.01.08 at 15:16

on 01/02/08 at 11:50:20, Rob Spence wrote :
Well, here I am!
I think I did make some postings ages ago, but you are right, I haven't been as vocal a voice as I should be. I really enjoyed Cultural Amnesia, which I take to be a massively important book, and one which deserves the widest circulation. The paperback is out in May- hope they have sorted those typos out by then.
Next time the muse strikes me with anything of an Atkin-James persuasion, I'll make sure I post here as well as on the blog.
Cheers to all MVs for a happy new year.
Rob


And it is a delight to see your first post.

Happy New Year from Iowa, where the politicians are on the rampage and the temperature is about -12 C.  :D

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Rob Spence on 02.01.08 at 16:06
Thanks Bogus (or should that be Mr Trumper?)
I was thinking about Cultural Amnesia and logged on to the MV forum for the first time in a long time to see what other people were saying- only to be confronted with my own words... So thanks to Kevin, my resolution this year is to be a vocal voice. The Iowa presidential race is hilarious - all these folk desperately trying to avoid offending anybody. Wouldn't it be great if someone just expressed an opinion? :D

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 03.01.08 at 08:21

on 01/02/08 at 16:06:02, Rob Spence wrote :
....... The Iowa presidential race is hilarious - all these folk desperately trying to avoid offending anybody. Wouldn't it be great if someone just expressed an opinion? :D


Hi Rob,

Even the founding fathers guessed as what there was to come, and presumably copuld do little to prevent it.

"[Political] offices are as acceptable here as elsewhere, and whenever a man casts a longing eye on them, a rottenness begins in his conduct." -- Thomas Jefferson.

Mind you, as always, it's Marx - Groucho not Karl - who comes closest to catching the spirit of our (political) age.

"Those are my principles.  If you don't like them, I have others."


Kevin Cryan


Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Rob Spence on 03.01.08 at 08:46
Yes - it's noticeable that Marx (K) doesn't feature in Cultural Amnesia, though the dire effects of communism as practised by Stalin constitute a leitmotif. Marx (G) had much the better lines. Were he alive today, I expect he might revive that song "Whatever it is, I'm against it".

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by BogusTrumper on 03.01.08 at 15:50

on 01/02/08 at 16:06:02, Rob Spence wrote :
Thanks Bogus (or should that be Mr Trumper?)
I was thinking about Cultural Amnesia and logged on to the MV forum for the first time in a long time to see what other people were saying- only to be confronted with my own words... So thanks to Kevin, my resolution this year is to be a vocal voice. The Iowa presidential race is hilarious - all these folk desperately trying to avoid offending anybody. Wouldn't it be great if someone just expressed an opinion? :D


Bogus is good  :)

If you want a hilarious read on what a caucus is like, try this:

http://www.236.com/news/2008/01/02/the_iowa_caucus_insignificant_3223.php

It is TOTALLY different to a "first past the post" vote, and great fun.


And Bill Bryson and I are dopplegangers - we did the same thing in opposite directions!

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Ian Ashleigh on 03.01.08 at 20:10
Why wasn't Cultural Amnesia on my Chrismas list - I'll have to buy my own copy.

And as Marx (G) didn't say - Anyone who wants to be President of USA shouldn't be alowed to be!!

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 04.01.08 at 07:04
A rather good variation on Groucho's "I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member ", I think


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 06.01.08 at 13:19
This is how Charles Foran (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Foran) began his essay on Cultural Amnesia yesterday in the pages of the Canadian national newspaper The Globe and Mail (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Globe_and_Mail)

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

CULTURAL CRITICISM

Has this man read everything?

CHARLES FORAN

January 5, 2008

CULTURAL AMNESIA

Notes in the Margin of My Time

By Clive James

Picador, 876 pages, $55

Clive James cannot write a dull sentence or express a mundane thought. The revered Australian critic and author accumulated the 110 biographical essays that make up Cultural Amnesia over a 40-year period. While also busy publishing some 30 other books, all delivered in the same whip-smart, aphoristic prose, the timeline is helpful in rendering this massive project less daunting. Do the math, and the numbers revert to the human sphere: two or three essays per year, manageable for a writer once described by The New Yorker as a "brilliant bunch of guys."
...[more] (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20080105.BKCLIV05/TPStory/Entertainment)

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Kevin Cryan


Title: Re:
Post by Pete Atkin on 07.01.08 at 09:54
As a believer in correction attributions wherever possible, and in therefore resisting folk etymologies and the assumption that anything clever and witty must have been said originally by Oscar Wilde or Groucho Marx or Dorothy Parker (a tendency which was clearly already rife when Cole Porter wrote the verse to 'Just One Of Those Things'), I believe that the following is the first articulation (in 1980) of this particular thought (most of you will probably recognise it, or at least recognise the style):

"The major problem -- *one* of the major problems, for there are several -- one of the many major problems with governing people is that of who you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.  To summarize:- It is a well known and much lamented fact that those people who most *want* to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.  To summarize the summary:- anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.  To summarize the summary of the summary:- people are a problem."

I'd be most interested if anyone can come up with an earlier citation.

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 08.01.08 at 22:01
I have seen the dictum that "those who seek power are not worthy of power", which, taken out of context, can be thought to be expressing something of the same idea,  attributed to Plato (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plato), though as far as I know neither Plato, nor his fequent mouthpiece in the various dialogues, Socrates, ever put it in quite that way.

In Book VII The Republic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_%28Plato%29) Plato's Socrates does tell Glaucon that "the truth is that the State in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is always the best and most quietly governed, and the State in which they are most eager, the worst". One presumes that where the idea comes from.? [link] (http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.8.vii.html)

Kevin Cryan



"The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato."Alfred North Whitehead (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_North_Whitehead), Process and Reality, p. 39 [Free Press, 1979];



Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Pete Atkin on 08.01.08 at 23:07
Ah, yes, right, yes, Plato.  Should have got that.   Maybe the new element in the Adams is to take it beyond the idea of better or worse government to the idea of the desire being actually a disqualification.   I think there's something somewhere in Confucius to the effect that government is at its most effective when the governed believe that they have done it by themselves, which predates Plato by a bit, but that's drifting a bit off course.

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 10.01.08 at 07:38
Just to stay out "a whole degree" for a moment, I think that what Confucius had in mind was not so much  the governed believing " that they have done it by themselves"  as them thinking, or accepting, that they lived under the right form of govenrment. Confuscius believed thato both ruler and ruled had to be educated into an understanding of their respective positions.


"By winning the people, the kingdom is won; by losing the people, the kingdom is lost." [link] (http://books.google.com/books?id=A_wPOikMKisC&pg=PA241&lpg=PA241&dq=by+winning+the+people+the+kingdom+is+won+by+losing+the+people+the+kingdom+is+lost&source=web&ots=GbyVOhUdqE&sig=0uWRxviA0Q3C28JtHFgVFhaK0qM)

This, even in Cufucius's time, not very novel idea is a forerunner to what is nowadays called - usually in "management-speak" - getting the people to "buy into" a process, or convincing them that the way things are done is the best, and only possible, way of doing things. The modern version, some would argue, is more about "brain-washing" than education. But that is going out further than "a whole degree".


Kevin Cryan  


Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by BogusTrumper on 12.01.08 at 03:46

Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so.

Gore Vidal

Trouble is, I don't know when  :(

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 16.02.08 at 18:17

on 11/30/07 at 06:42:53, Kevin Cryan wrote :
The New York Times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_York_Times) has chosen Cultural Amnesia, which it reviewed the 8th of April 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/08/books/review/Schillinger.t.html) as one of the
100 Notable Books of 2007 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/books/review/notable-books-2007.html?_r=1&oref=slogin)



Kevin Cryan


It's quite remarkable just how much good press it got in America.

Just about the most remarkable thing that's happened to it this side of the Atlantic is that the hardback has made it way at a greater any than any book I know of, other than Clive's North Face of Soho, onto the shelves of remaindered shops. Today, I picked up a copy, from a pile of ten, in one such outlet for the princely sum £2.

I leave to those who know more about publishing and selling books to figure out why Picador has released these titles to the remaindered marketplace quite such unseemly speed. All I will say that is it seems to me to be all rather odd.

Kevin Cryan
   

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 18.02.08 at 07:11
It seems to me that it's been a very long time since we've  heard anything from Jeremy Walton,  the man who once said that he  considered himself to be ”Pete Atkin’s number one fan” (http://www.peteatkin.com/everyman.htm). Well, it looks as though he has not disappeared altogether. Only yesterday, while  I was browsing Amazon to see how it was handling the pricing and selling of Clive's Cultural Amnesia (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cultural-Amnesia-Notes-Margin-Time/dp/0330481746) I hit upon an Amazon customer review which suggested the Jeremy was still very active in promoting the Atkin/James brand.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful:
***** My book of the year, (http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R1F79EUCED42WH/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm)
12 Jul 2007

By Jeremy Walton (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/pdp/profile/A1KHS6ZCQOP6KZ/ref=cm_cr_dp_pdp) (Oxford, UK) -See all my reviews (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A1KHS6ZCQOP6KZ/ref=cm_cr_dp_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort%5Fby=MostRecentReview- )
   

Following some explicit hints to my daughter, I was delighted to receive this as a Father's Day gift. I consider myself a fairly well-read person, but only in the extremely limited sense of having read just about everything Clive James has ever written, ranging from his TV reviews, literary criticism, autobiography, novels and verse to his lyrics for singer-songwriter Pete Atkin. More broadly, what I've read in his books has introduced me to other writers, and it's always been entertaining to see his opinion (particularly when it's not high) on books which I've already read.

There's more of the same in this book, but its scale and structure dwarfs anything he's produced up until now. Some four years in the writing, it's been viewed as the culmination of his life's work (although he's rumoured to have already started work on a second volume). At first glance, it's a collection of more than a hundred critical essays on selected cultural or historical figures, mostly from 20th century Europe. Digging deeper reveals other things, as he uses his ideas about the person as a jumping-off point for musings on other topics such as plagarism, fame, memory, reading, grammar and bibliophilia.

His range of reference is extraordinary, taking in books written in German, French, Italian and Spanish (all of which he apparently reads fluently). There's a strong didactic element running through this work, as he breaks off to give advice on the most profitable way to learn languages, the best dictionaries and translations, and which books are most easily used as a starting point for breaking into a specific language. He also tells stories of the tracking down of books in shops all over the world that are explicit - even loving - in their physical detail as he describes their bindings, typeface and paper, and how they look on his shelves at home.

His main theme here, however, is culture and the struggles of liberal humanism against totalitarianism. This is clearly a big subject, and each one of these essays illuminates it from a slightly different angle until you're left feeling wiser, older and sadder at the heroism and destruction that inspired this work. Along the way, his lively and playful turns of phrase are enough to make you start making notes in the margin yourself - to take just one example at random, on p498 he describes the constant need to refresh our memory of good things that we've read as "a polishing of the pipe, like El Dorado's throat". I'm sure I won't read a better book this year, and perhaps for some time to come afterwards as well.
Comment (http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R1F79EUCED42WH/ref=cm_cr_dp_cmt?%5Fencoding=UTF8&ASIN=0330481746#wasThisHelpful) |Permalink (http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R1F79EUCED42WH/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm)


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>



Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 13.03.08 at 21:28
I like this piece of blogging, and am reprinting here, for no beeter reason than I see evidnece that Clive James's writing is having much the same effect on a 29 year old resident of Austin, Texas (http://www.blogger.com/profile/01629784845492490477) that it had on me some thirty odd years ago when I began to read as much of it as I could possibly find. I'd like to think that this young man is unique only in that he has put written his thoughts about Clive up in his weblog.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Cultural Amnesia by Clive James (http://jonpolk.blogspot.com/2008/03/cultural-amnesia-by-clive-james.html)

Who was the person that opened your eyes and helped you realize that there was so much more out there for you to know, so much that until then you never even knew existed?

Mine were opened in my third semester of college, listening to hour-long lectures twice a week in English Literature. Professor James Soderholm was the sort of intellect that up until that point I had never encountered before. He seemed to know everything about everything, and he was the standard that my roommate and I held ourselves to, aspiring to one day become professors ourselves. Professor Soderholm discussed knowledge as an inverted pyramid: the more you learned and moved up the pyramid, the more there was to know. However, I think this analogy is somewhat flawed, and I would offer another as a substitute. Personal knowledge is like a circle. Everything inside that circle is what you know, and as you learn the circle grows in area. However, what’s ]outside the circle is what you don’t know, and as the circumference of your knowledge grows, the greater the amount of unknown material is in contact with it .
 
The more you know, the more you are forced to realize you don’t. And in a corollary, the people who think they know just about everything only think that because their circle is s small; it doesn’t border all that much of the unknown.

After finishing the book this evening, I sat down with a book of Joan Didion’s essays and read an account of a debate over the pro/anti-racist nature of The Confessions of Nat Turner between author William Styron and Ossie Davis. It took place at the house of Sammy Davis, Jr., and James Baldwin played the mediator role. How perfect a scene like this would be in James’s book, informing the reader of not just the careers of the people included, but getting a sense of who they were as people.

http://bp1.blogger.com/_WN6jFzyZowg/R9ZnRnxLNQI/AAAAAAAAACk/B8n6F4K3YbM/s200/cultural+amnesia.jpg
Reading Clive James’s mammoth book of essays, Cultural Amnesia, I was again struck by how much knowledge I don’t have. He selected one hundred individuals that are deserving of our attention as students of the culture in which we live, and presented an essay (or sometimes two or three) on each. Why should we care? James cites Nirad C. Chaudhuri, who says ‘civilization continues through the humane examination of its history.’

I consider myself a reasonably informed person, someone who might do quite well on Jeopardy one day, but I had only passing familiarity with maybe a third of the people James selected. I’d never heard of Egon Friedell, Miguel de Unamuno, or Alexandra Kollontai. And many of the ones I had heard of, like Raymond Aron, I knew nothing more than a name.

But these chapters aren’t biographies. They are essays that use their subjects as launching pads for greater issues and associations. The entry on Michael Mann discusses the difference between stage acting and acting for the screen, the necessity that narration work in a particular art form, and when movie stars become actors. The essay on Chaplin is really about Einstein.

It can be a bit of a mystery as to why James opted for the people he did.
For example, why of all the Hollywood directors that have impacted the cinema and our greater art scene, does he only select Michael Mann?  No John Ford, or Orson Welles, or even David Lynch?  But then one remembers the title: Cultural Amnesia. James is trying to insure that we don’t forget certain lessons that may be best exemplified by these people. There is little chance that we will forget Steven Spielberg, but I would imagine that we likely will forget Michael Mann. James ends the book by saying, ‘What I tried to do was keep some [of what I’ve read] with me and draw lessons from it.’ And perhaps this is the most important reason to read a book that weighs in at just under 900 pages. There is no wayfor us to remember everything that we read, see, or hear, but we can try to keep with us what we can, learning all the while. http://bp0.blogger.com/_WN6jFzyZowg/R9ZnIXxLNPI/AAAAAAAAACc/MfsVE2AsVMI/s200/SpeakOutCliveJames.jpg

My circle is much bigger than it was ten months ago when I started this book. I hope it grows even bigger in the next ten.


Posted by Jon Polk at 5:59 AM


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>..

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Jeremy on 14.03.08 at 14:15

on 02/18/08 at 07:11:07, Kevin Cryan wrote :
It seems to me that it's been a very long time since we've  heard anything from Jeremy Walton,  the man who once said that he  considered himself to be ”Pete Atkin’s number one fan” (http://www.peteatkin.com/everyman.htm). Well, it looks as though he has not disappeared altogether. Only yesterday, while  I was browsing Amazon to see how it was handling the pricing and selling of Clive's Cultural Amnesia (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cultural-Amnesia-Notes-Margin-Time/dp/0330481746) I hit upon an Amazon customer review which suggested the Jeremy was still very active in promoting the Atkin/James brand.


Hi Kevin - many thanks for the acknowledgement of my Amazon review - it's good to learn that I haven't, in fact, disappeared altogether!  Actually I made a microscopic point in this thread last year about a J D Salinger query in "Cultural Amnesia" but, come to think of it, that wasn't too different from being completely invisible!  Anyway, well done once again on your continuing efforts to promote this excellent book.

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 07.04.08 at 15:17
This is how Clive has introduced Cultural Amnesia (http://www.panmacmillan.com/picador/ManageBlog.aspx?BlogID=976ef340-9187-4c78-bead-fab2bda2c86e&BlogPage=Permalink) – the eBook (http://www.panmacmillan.com/Titles/displayPage.asp?PageTitle=Individual%20Title&BookID=410303).

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

When Cultural Amnesia was launched last year I wasn’t sure that it would even float. It was a pleasant surprise to see it steaming off in the direction of every horizon at once.

In hardback the book has done at least as well as any of my autobiographies, so I have high hopes for the paperback, which should be more in range of the student budget. The paperback (http://www.panmacmillan.com/Titles/displayPage.asp?PageTitle=Individual%20Title&BookID=403243) will also be slightly less massive, which might mean that older people can read it with a smaller risk of being flattened. A complete unknown to me is how the eBook (http://www.panmacmillan.com/Titles/displayPage.asp?PageTitle=Individual%20Title&BookID=410303) will do. I’m not entirely certain yet what an eBook is, but I prepared some special extra material for it just out of faith. All this is happening while I work on the manuscript of my fifth volume of unreliable memoirs. There are also two poetry books in prospect: a successor to my first volume of collected verse, The Book of My Enemy (http://www.panmacmillan.com/Titles/displayPage.asp?PageTitle=Individual%20Title&BookID=386210), and also a book of selected poems. I am also writing the introduction for a new essay collection. My retirement from mainstream television has made all this literary activity possible but my problem now is how to retire from my retirement while I can still walk. ..........................


Posted by Clive James
(http://www.panmacmillan.com/picador/ManageBlog.aspx?Author=Clive%20James) at 07/04/08, 11:25:52



>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>



Kevin Cryan

Note

Clive's publisher, Picador (http://www.panmacmillan.com/picador/DisplayPage.aspx?Page=Picador) is making a sales point of the fact that eBook comes DRM free. Those who do not understand what this means to the purchaser should check out the DRM (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_rights_management) in Wikipedia.



Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 12.04.08 at 19:15
Today's edition of The Guardian has Cultural Amnesia as Nicholas Lezard's paperback choice (http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/roundupstory/0,,2272992,00.html).

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

For the love of knowledge (http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/roundupstory/0,,2272992,00.html)

Nicholas Lezard takes on Clive James's learning in Cultural Amnesia

Saturday April 12, 2008

The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/)

..............................

....James is, as always, a pleasure to read, even when there are times you feel that it might be also a duty. Part of the price of this is a fondness for the contentious declaration - usually when baiting the far left. My own notes to this book contain more than one "oh, yeah?" But there are many more that attest to his enriching, magnanimous judiciousness and insight.

________________________________________________

To order Cultural Amnesia for £13.99 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0870 836 0875 or go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop (http://www.guardianbookshop.co.uk/BerteShopWeb/viewProduct.do?ISBN=9780330481748)
>>>>>>>>>>>>


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 15.04.08 at 19:58

on 04/07/08 at 15:17:19, Kevin Cryan wrote :
This is how Clive has introduced Cultural Amnesia (http://www.panmacmillan.com/picador/ManageBlog.aspx?BlogID=976ef340-9187-4c78-bead-fab2bda2c86e&BlogPage=Permalink) – the eBook (http://www.panmacmillan.com/Titles/displayPage.asp?PageTitle=Individual%20Title&BookID=410303).

...........

Kevin Cryan


Nicholas Blake of the Pan Macmillan Digital Publishing (http://thedigitalist.net/?page_id=2) team,  in the blog, Cultural Amnesia and ’special edition’ eBooks (http://thedigitalist.net/?p=126), he posted to the team bolg, the digitalist (http://thedigitalist.net/index.php), has now explained some of the ways in which eBook (http://www.panmacmillan.com/Titles/displayPage.asp?PageTitle=Individual%20Title&BookID=410303) version of Cultural Amnesiais different from the print version.

If you are looking for reasons for investing  in the ebook when have got a perfectly good print copy, then the ones he gives could be just what you are looking for (http://thedigitalist.net/?p=126).


Kevin Cryan






Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 27.04.08 at 12:04
Jean Hannah Edelstein (http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/jean_hannah_edelstein/profile.html) on ...... Cultural Amnesia in today's edition (http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/roundupstory/0,,2276492,00.html) of The Observer.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>



[bgcolor=Beige]...........In the hands of any other writer, such an ambitious and personal A-Z of 20th-century culture could have collapsed into a confusing heap, but this is a rather beautiful book. James proves himself not only to be in possession of a towering intellect, but a singular ability to communicate his often slightly obscure passions in a manner that is warm and enriching.

[/bgcolor]




>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 27.04.08 at 14:08
Pick of the paperbacks (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2008/04/26/bopb126.xml)
Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/) 26/04/2008

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Cultural Amnesia by Clive James

Clive James's alphabetical tour of his lifetime's reading and thinking is startling in its breadth: Einstein rubs up with Duke Ellington and Beatrix Potter with Proust, Thomas Mann with the film director Michael Mann. It is full of people one should have heard of but haven't (Thomas Mann's historian son Golo, the Spanish essayist Miguel de Unamuno).

But its stylistic range is far narrower: the wise and the cunning, the heroic and the desperate, are all assessed with the same briskly judgmental liberalism, phrased with the same neatness. A very exalted lavatory book. PR
*

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


Kevin Cryan

*Peter Robins


PS. I know that Torygraph readers are considered by those of us of other persuasions to have some odd tastes, but does anybody really think that those tastes run to buying an 'exalted lavatory book'? Maybe lavatory has a different meaning for them than it does for me.






Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 14.05.08 at 08:44
Listen to Clive James talking to Canadian writer and  broadcaster Eleanor Wachtel (http://www.cbc.ca/writersandcompany/) for CBC Radio's* Words at Large** about Cultural Amnesia by going through this link (http://www.cbc.ca/wordsatlarge/blog/2008/05/author_clive_james_talks_with.html).

Kevin Cryan





NOTES



>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Words at Large (http://www.cbc.ca/wordsatlarge/index.html?copy-index)
** is CBC (http://www.cbc.ca/radio/)’s*online destination for Canadians who love books. Look for something new every day, from CBC programs and podcasts, to interviews with writers and more. Stay tuned for our newly designed and expanded site.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 27.07.08 at 19:40
From the Friday the 25th edition of The Telegraph (Kolkata) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Telegraph_(Kolkata))



THE OLD EUROPE TALK SHOW

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1080725/images/25bookavk.jpg
Otto Dix, Portrait of
Sylvia von Harden, 1926
Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time By Clive James, Picador, £8.60

In 1819, the year he wrote his greatest poems and letters, Keats ran into Coleridge in London, while walking towards Highgate. They walked together for about two miles in the older poet’s stately pace, and in the course of the walk STC “broached a thousand things” — like nightingales, nightmares, metaphysics, monsters and mermaids. In a letter to his brother and sister-in-law, this is how Keats ends his hilarious account of the encounter: “I heard his voice as he came towards me — I heard it as he moved away — I heard it all the interval — if it may be called so.”

I was reminded of Keats’s words after working through the 870-odd pages of Clive James’s Cultural Amnesia. “There are hundreds of voices in this book,” James writes in the introduction to this attempt at rebuilding Western humanism’s Tower of Babel. But the voice that one hears most insistently inside its echoing corridors, and then carries away as one stumbles out into the common day, is James’s own. The relentlessness of it is somewhere ......................[read on] (http://www.telegraphindia.com/1080725/jsp/opinion/story_9594639.jsp)
.


Kevin Cryan.

Note The writer of the piece, Aveek Sen, is Senior Assistant Editor (editorial pages), The Telegraph, Calcutta

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Pete Atkin on 28.07.08 at 08:31
I feel sure Clive will be pleased to receive serious attention from the Kolkata Telegraph, but the ending of Aveek Sen's piece lets it down badly.  It concludes with an in any case insupportable statement, apparently manufactured as a prompt for an astonishingly inappropriate question:

'In the “rule of decency” that James’s “crash course” attempts to rescue from oblivion, there is no room for difficulty, poetic or discursive, for anything that is not luminously accessible. But isn’t this a kind of fascism too?'

Even if the preceding statement were true at face value (which it isn't), the polite answer to the question, in my opinion, would still be "No, of course it isn't; don't be so silly."  That, as I say, is the polite answer.

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Rob Spence on 28.07.08 at 10:18
Did this bloke read the same book I did? No room for difficulty? I'd have said the whole thrust of the book is to expose the complexity of culture, to explore the often startling connections between apparently disparate artistic expressions, and to make a case for the rehabilitation and rediscovery of the work of  some thinkers whose ideas certainly seemed difficult enough to me. Or am I missing something?

Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
Post by Kevin Cryan on 06.08.08 at 14:52
Cultural Amenesia is on the non-fiction short list for the 2008 (Australian) Prime Minister (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Rudd)’s Literary Awards.  

The winner in each category gets a generous tax free prize of $100, 000 (£46,658 approx). So there is a little more than just prestige at stake.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>



Australian Government (http://www.arts.gov.au/)________________________________
Department of the Environment, Water. Heritage and the Arts.
Arts and culture

2008 short list (http://www.arts.gov.au/books/pmliteraryawards/shortlist)_____________________________

2008 short list

The Arts Minister Peter Garrett* has announced the short list for the 2008 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

Short list: Fiction

The 91 entries in the fiction category of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards included a wide range of contemporary Australian fiction.

The seven short-listed fiction books include works in prose, a compilation of short stories and one work in verse. Among the short list are writers whose distinguished careers have spanned decades as well as debut authors whose careers are just beginning.
[list bull-blacksq]
  • Burning In Mireille Juchau (Giramondo)[list bull-blacksq]
  • El Dorado Dorothy Porter (Picador)
    [list bull-blacksq]
  • Jamaica Malcolm Knox (Allen and Unwin)
    [list bull-blacksq]
  • Sorry Gail Jones (Vintage)
    [list bull-blacksq]
  • The Complete Stories David Malouf (Knopf)
    [list bull-blacksq]
  • The Widow and Her Hero Tom Keneally (Doubleday)
    [list bull-blacksq]
  • The Zookeeper's War Steven Conte (Fourth Estate)

    Short list: Non-fiction

    A total of 103 books, traversing topics from politics, art, philosophy and architecture were entered in the 2008 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards non-fiction category.

    The judges selected the seven short-listed books because of their originality, rich detail and clarity of writing. Included in the short list are histories born from meticulous research, engaging accounts of survival and moving stories that resonate long after the book has been closed.

    [list bull-blacksq]
  • A History of Queensland Raymond Evans (Cambridge University Press)[list bull-blacksq]
  • Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time Clive James (Picador)[list bull-blacksq]
  • My Life as a Traitor Zarah Ghahramani with Robert Hillman (Scribe)
    [list bull-blacksq]
  • Napoleon: The Path to Power, 1769–1799 Philip Dwyer (Bloomsbury)[list bull-blacksq]
  • Ochre and Rust: Artefacts and Encounters on Australian Frontiers Philip Jones (Wakefield Press)
    [list bull-blacksq]
  • Shakespeare's Wife Germaine Greer (Bloomsbury)
    [list bull-blacksq]
  • Vietnam: The Australian War Paul Ham (HarperCollins)


    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Kevin Cryan

    Addenda

    *Peter Garrett (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Garrett)

    The winner is to be announced next month.


  • Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
    Post by Kevin Cryan on 17.08.08 at 12:33
    In today’s edition of Sunday Times (South Africa) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sunday_Times_(South_Africa)) the cultural commentator, Bongani Madondo, clearly a great admirer of Clive’s writing, forgetting that he’s correctly identified Cultural Amnesia as “a biography of the writer’s own reading experience through an examination of the writers, thinkers, poets, politicians and comedians he has read and watched over the last 40 years” laments the fact that “ book’s heroes are almost all white, Western, mostly male, which is sad and ironic, considering that James, like Evelyn Waugh, George Orwell and his contemporary, VS Naipaul, is one of the most well- travelled authors you’ll find this side of National Geographic.”

    Although Madondo immediately recognises the absurdity of the position he has just taken, he, for some unfathomable reason, can’t quite bring himself to say so in his column.

    The only black names are those he believes validate his elitist view of the parallels between jazz and elevated taste.

    There’s also almost no discernible attempt to deal with India (apart, of course, from the token essay on Nirad Chaudhuri), South America or any other Third World country.

    Let’s just assume it’s not racism, that a man who writes with such aching clarity and feeling can’t be racist. Let’s just assume James’s primary focus is writing about his childhood heroes.

    Or let’s just assume that the thrill is gone, baby — that both continents are not worth the effort it takes to cut down precious trees and, besides, why waste the ink? Or let’s just say: Clive James doesn’t give a f**k about Africa.”


    Kevin Cryan


    Forgetting Africa (http://www.thetimes.co.za/PrintEdition/Lifestyle/Article.aspx?id=820745) by Bongani Madondo (http://www.litnet.co.za/cgi-bin/giga.cgi?cmd=cause_dir_news_item&news_id=2916&cause_id=1270)

    Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
    Post by BogusTrumper on 17.08.08 at 22:25
    Looking at the recent post list, I am begining to think we should rename the forum the "Clive James Forum"

    :D

    Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
    Post by Anne H on 17.08.08 at 22:49
    That's true Bogus Trumper.  Let's get back to talking a bit more about Pete (wish someone would give him some kind of award!) Clive's words are wonderful, but the music is pretty brilliant too.

    Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
    Post by Anne H on 21.08.08 at 19:57
    To reply to Kevin's last message - sorry if the thread was cut off somewhat.

    My thoughts on reading the South African cultural commentator's review was that poor Clive was damned if he did, damned if he didn't .  If he had included anything about Africa it would have probably have been dismissed as "token"!

    "Cultural Amnesia" is definitely going on my wish-list.

    Anne

    Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
    Post by Rob Spence on 29.08.08 at 10:22
    Clive has a review in the current TLS of Joseph Horovitz's Artists in Exile, which covers some of the same ground as Cultural Amnesia, in that it is about the impact of refugees from Europe on the performing arts, particularly cinema in America. Worth a look. Go to
    http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/the_tls/article4618457.ece

    Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
    Post by Jan on 16.09.08 at 21:24

    on 08/17/08 at 22:25:08, BogusTrumper wrote :
    Looking at the recent post list, I am begining to think we should rename the forum the "Clive James Forum"

    :D


    I know this is going back a bit but I'm really missing the stuff about Clive and after all a section of the forum is called:

    Words
    Clive James, his lyrics and other writings


    Please could someone give an update on Clive's doings? I know its cheeky to ask, but could Kevin post a weekly link to his blog (http://kcryan.wordpress.com/category/clive-james/)if there's some new material on Mr James?
    Clive does seem to have been pretty busy in Australia over the last few weeks, there's been at least one good interview, a collection of his writings... and isn't there a poetry book due in the near future?

    CJ's work has stimulated some interesting discussion on MV in the past and it would be a shame to lose that aspect of the forum.

    Jan

    Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
    Post by BogusTrumper on 17.09.08 at 17:45

    on 09/16/08 at 21:24:26, Jan wrote :
    I know this is going back a bit but I'm really missing the stuff about Clive and after all a section of the forum is called:

    Words
    Clive James, his lyrics and other writings


    Please could someone give an update on Clive's doings? I know its cheeky to ask, but could Kevin post a weekly link to his blog (http://kcryan.wordpress.com/category/clive-james/)if there's some new material on Mr James?
    Clive does seem to have been pretty busy in Australia over the last few weeks, there's been at least one good interview, a collection of his writings... and isn't there a poetry book due in the near future?

    CJ's work has stimulated some interesting discussion on MV in the past and it would be a shame to lose that aspect of the forum.

    Jan
     I  have absolutely no objection to CJ threads and posts!  :)  It was just that we seemed to have stopped having any PA threads and posts for a while!

    Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
    Post by John N L Morrison on 22.09.08 at 21:46

    on 08/17/08 at 12:33:28, Kevin Cryan wrote :
    In today’s edition of Sunday Times (South Africa) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sunday_Times_(South_Africa)) the cultural commentator, Bongani Madondo, clearly a great admirer of Clive’s writing, forgetting that he’s correctly identified Cultural Amnesia as “a biography of the writer’s own reading experience through an examination of the writers, thinkers, poets, politicians and comedians he has read and watched over the last 40 years” laments the fact that “ book’s heroes are almost all white, Western, mostly male, which is sad and ironic, considering that James, like Evelyn Waugh, George Orwell and his contemporary, VS Naipaul, is one of the most well- travelled authors you’ll find this side of National Geographic.”

    Although Madondo immediately recognises the absurdity of the position he has just taken, he, for some unfathomable reason, can’t quite bring himself to say so in his column.

    The only black names are those he believes validate his elitist view of the parallels between jazz and elevated taste.

    There’s also almost no discernible attempt to deal with India (apart, of course, from the token essay on Nirad Chaudhuri), South America or any other Third World country.

    Let’s just assume it’s not racism, that a man who writes with such aching clarity and feeling can’t be racist. Let’s just assume James’s primary focus is writing about his childhood heroes.

    Or let’s just assume that the thrill is gone, baby — that both continents are not worth the effort it takes to cut down precious trees and, besides, why waste the ink? Or let’s just say: Clive James doesn’t give a f**k about Africa.”


    Kevin Cryan


    Forgetting Africa (http://www.thetimes.co.za/PrintEdition/Lifestyle/Article.aspx?id=820745) by Bongani Madondo (http://www.litnet.co.za/cgi-bin/giga.cgi?cmd=cause_dir_news_item&news_id=2916&cause_id=1270)


    Was given "Cultural Amnesia" for Xmas. Ploughed happily through it for several months, struggling hard to keep head above water. Was amazed at his cultural range - how many creators/critics are so at ease with so many modern european writers? And in the original languages?

    And some are now griping that he doesn't encompass all the world's cultures?

    C'mon, guys - let's get serious. He does what he does better than most/any of his generation - don't expect him to be a modern incarnation of 16th century savants who could encompass all of human civilisation.

    And as for that Pete Atkin.....  Well, love him to bits, but his best stuff was in the '70s. His restatements of the canon are spotty - some an improvement, but others made me dive back to the originals. Still, I'll forgive him much for his efforts over the years  (not sure about the Shrinks though, even if they do have my money). Will give them another go in the car on the way to a conference in The Hague on Thursday.

    So, horses for courses and let's not be too judgemental.....


    John

    Title: Re: Clive's Cultural Amnesia.
    Post by Kevin Cryan on 14.12.10 at 13:31
    Heda Margolius Kovály (née Bloch 15 September 1919 – 5 December 2010)
    http://www.margolius.co.uk/images/hedacover9.jpgThe Czechoslovakian writer Heda Margolius Kovály, who died of the 5th of December and whose obituary (http://www.ethiopianreview.com/index/201001/?p=15012), written by her son, Ivan Margolius, appears in today's edition of The Guardian, was much admired for her account of life under the Nazis and Communist regimes, Prague Farewell.

    Possibly better known, and up until recently more readily avaliable to, English readers under the Under A Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968, this book has had its admirers ever since it was first published, with some influential critics suggesting that it's a classic which ranks alongside works of Primo Levi as as an account of the war and its aftermath.

    Clive James devotes a section of  Cultural Amnesia (2007), to Kovály and draws his  readers' attention to her "psychological penetration and terse style". Of the book itself he says:



    Quote:
    Given 30 seconds to recommend a single book that might start a serious student on the hard road to understanding the political tragedies of the 20th century, I would choose this one."





    http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51nzjNk1s1L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

    RIP


    Kevin Cryan



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