Clive James

To some it may seem solipsistic to be reviewing what is, in effect, a collection of reviews, but when the reviewer in question is as smart as the late Clive James and the subject is as substantial as Philip Larkin (1922–85) this is unlikely to be the case.

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An Oka kamikaze rocket bomb
Sits in the vestibule, its rising sun
Ablaze with pride.
Names of the fallen are on CD-ROM.
The war might have been lost. The peace was won:
A resurrection after suicide.

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For admirers of Clive James’s poetry written since he became terminally ill in 2011 (and this reviewer is certainly one), The River in the Sky will pose something of a quandary. In collections like Sentenced to Life (2015) and Injury Time (2017), the poems were generally tough, vulnerable, well-turned and ...

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‘You might ask how a man who spent his days with the major poems of Browning could wish to spend his evenings with the minor movies of Chow Yun-fat,’ Clive James asks ...

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Clive James’s series of memoirs began in 1980 with the Unreliable one. Thirty-five years and four more very funny books later, the Five Lives of Clive have been rounded with a sixth: a slim volume of poems. It is probably also the most reliable, as if, paradoxically, James took more poetic licence when working in prose. The prevailing tone is a long way fro ...

Poetry ‘cannot be an ark to help us survive the flood’, wrote Zbigniew Herbert in 1948: ‘It has to be our daily bread, an article of primary need.’ Nothing could be more truly said of Clive James’s approach to poetry. His latest assemblage of essays, reviews, and miscellanea, collected over the years that straddle his diagnosis of leukemia, feel necessary as oxygen. There is a quiet restlessness too: a sense of sorting papers into some final order.

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High dungeon was a feeling I knew well
When mockery from men weighed on my soul.
As your Prime Minister I went through hell,
If I can say so without hyperbowl.

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The Divine Comedy by Dante, translated by Clive James

by
December 2014, no. 367

During a visit to Adelaide in 2013 as a keynote speaker at the Australasian Centre for Italian Studies ‘Re-imagining Italian Studies’ conference, Professor Martin McLaughlin (Agnelli-Serena Professor of Italian Studies and Fellow of Magdalen College) made the following observation about Clive James’s translation of The Divine Comedy

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Old age is not my problem. Bad health, yes.
If I were well again, I’d walk for miles,
My name a synonym for tirelessness.
On Friday nights I’d go out on the tiles:
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A Point of View is a weekly BBC Radio series in which invited speakers deliver ten-minute talks about ‘anything that has captured their imagination’ that week. Clive James contributed from 2007 to the end of 2009. This book is a collection of his talks. It is fascinating to read, both because of the immense range of subjects he covered and because it gives you some insights into the author himself.

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