Thursday, November 28, 2019

Vale Clive James, the kid from Kogarah, Reliable Literary Giant

"A painter can leave you with nothing left to say. A writer leaves you with everything to say.”Kid from Kogarah

Australian author and TV personality Clive James has died at the age of 80.

He has a way of gliding through sentences, effortlessly ironing a series of complex points into a single easily-navigable line, illuminating here and cogitating there, before leading you face-first into an unexpected punchline that makes your brain yelp with delight

 Many remember Clive James as the wry television presenter, but long before his small screen success, he honed his performing and writing skills at the University of Sydney. 
Arriving as a 16-year-old fresher in 1957, James found himself surrounded by an exceptionally talented group of young people including, among others, Bruce BeresfordJohn BellJohn GadenLeo SchofieldMadeline St JohnRichard WherrettKen HorlerRobert Hughes and, soon after, Germaine Greer.

The writer and broadcasteClive James, who has died aged 80, once wrote a poem about visiting his father’s grave at the Sai Wan war cemetery in Hong Kong. His father, Albert, who had survived a PoW camp and then forced labour in Japan, died when the plane bringing him home crashed in Taiwan, and James later described this as the “defining event” in his life. The poem, My Father Before Me, ends:
Back at the gate, I turn to face the hill,
Your headstone lost again among the rest.
I have no time to waste, much less to kill.
My life is yours; my curse, to be so blessed. 
James, who was six when Albert died, spent much of his subsequent life as a poet, essayist and broadcaster producing articles and song lyrics, many poetry collections and volumes of critical essays, four novels and five books of memoirs, as well as hosting umpteen television shows. That fever of busyness was to compensate not only for his father’s death, but for how his mother’s life fell apart on being widowed. “I am trying to lead the life they might have had,” he said in 2009. “It’s a chance to pay them back for my life. I don’t like luck; I’ve had a lot of it.”

The poet, critic and star of Britain’s The Clive James Show, who was known for his dry humour and insightful reviews, died at his home in Cambridge on Sunday, a statement from his agent said.

“Generally it is our failures that civilize us. Triumph confirms us in our habits.” 
-- Clive James

Matt Schudel, via the Washington Post
Mr. James, who occupied a central place in a London literary coterie that included Christopher Hitchens, Martin Amis and Julian Barnes, was, above all else, a master of incandescent English prose.

He was diagnosed with leukaemia, kidney failure and lung disease almost 10 years ago and endured his “ever-multiplying illnesses with patience and good humour”, it added.
“A private funeral attended by family and close friends took place in the chapel at Pembroke College, Cambridge on Wednesday 27th November,” it said.
“He endured his ever-multiplying illnesses with patience and good humour, knowing until the last moment that he had experienced more than his fair share of this ‘great, good world’.”
As a parting reminder of his larrikin wit, James penned his own obituary and published it on his website, telling journalists it would be “cheaper than anything most newspapers are likely to have in the freezer”. 
“I will keep updating it until they carry me to the slab, during which journey I will try to give details of my final medication,” he wrote.
Clive James, TV Presenter and author. 7 October 1994. Entertainment
Clive James, TV Presenter and author. 7 October 1994. EntertainmentSource:News Corp Australia

James first revealed the news of his illness in May 2011, when he had already been ill for 15 months.

The next year he declared: “I am a man who is approaching his terminus”. But he coninued to write and broadcast until almost the very end.


British writer and comedian Stephen Fry paid tribute to James on Twitter, writing that he was one of his “heroes” growing up.

Broadcaster Richard Coles also described him as the “best telly critic that ever there was”.

One of Australia's most acclaimed cultural exports, Clive James, has died in England aged 80. 

bruce beresford james clive from
Bruce Beresford and Clive James, their friendship spanning six decades, caught 

Literary world reflects on the 'reigning genius' of Clive James

Australian literates and friends celebrate the life of Clive James, who brought larrikinism to Britain in his own unique way: 'He was the master of the paradox.'

Clive James AO CBE FRSL (7 October 1939 – 24 November 2019) was an Australian author, critic, broadcaster, poet, translator and memoirist. He lived and worked in the United Kingdom from 1961 until his death in ... Early life · Career · Health · Bibliography Notable works: Cultural Amnesia Children: 2, including Claerwen James Born: Vivian Leopold James; 7 October 1939 (age 80); Kogarah, New South Wales, ... Notable awards: Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal for Literature

Unreliable Memoirs soulfully drafted in London from 1961 and published in 1980 as MEdia Dragon was exiled to Australia

Most first novels are disguised autobiographies. This autobiography is a disguised novel 

    • Opening lines to the preface, p. 9

  • Rilke used to say that no poet would mind going to gaol, since he would at least have time to explore the treasure house of his memory. In many respects Rilke was a prick.
    • From the preface, p. 9

  • I was born in 1939. The other big event of that year was the outbreak of the Second World War, but for the moment that did not affect me.
    • Opening lines of the autobiography, p. 11 

  • My mother had naturally spiced the pudding with sixpences and threepenny bits, called zacs and trays respectively. Grandpa had collected one of these in the oesophagus. He gave a protracted, strangled gurgle which for a long time we all took to be the beginning of some anecdote.
    • p. 13

  • I remember the shock of seeing Ray undressed. He looked as if he had a squirrel hanging there. I had an acorn.
    • p. 17

  • Children in Australia are still named after movies and sporting events. You can tell roughly the year the swimming star Shane Gould was born. It was about the time Shane was released. There was a famous case of a returned serviceman who named his son after all the campaigns he had been through in the Western Desert. The kid was called William Bardia Escarpment Qattara Depression Mersa Matruh Tobruk El Alamein Benghazi Tripoli Harris.
    • p. 29 

  • Herzen was closer to the truth when he said that every memory calls up a dozen others. The real miracle of Proust is the discipline with which he stemmed the flow. Everything is a Madeleine.
    • p. 56

  • It often happens that we are most touched by what we are least capable of. Evanescent delicacy is not the quality in the arts that I admire most, but it is often the characteristic by which I am most reduced to envy.
    • p. 64

  • Riding the crest, I diversified, exploiting a highly marketable capacity to fart at will... By mastering this skill I set myself on a par with those court jesters of old who could wow the monarch and all his retinue with a simultaneous leap, whistle and fart. Unable to extend my neo-Homeric story-telling activities from the playground to the classroom, I could nevertheless continue to hog the limelight by interpolating a gaseous running commentary while the teacher addressed himself to the blackboard.
    • p. 105

  • The whole secret of raising a fart in class is to make it sound as if it is punctuating, or commenting upon, what the teacher is saying. Timing, not ripeness, is all. 'And since x tends to y as c tends to d,' Fred expounded, 'then the differential of the increment of x squared must be... must be... come on, come on! What must it flaming be?' Here was the chance to to give my version of what it must be. I armed one, opened the bomb bay, and let it go. Unfortunately, the results far exceeded the discreet limits I had intended. It sounded like a moose coughing.
    • p. 105-6

  • As I begin this last paragraph, outside my window a misty afternoon drizzle gently but inexorably soaks the City of London. Down there in the street I can see umbrellas commiserating with each other. In Sydney Harbour, twelve thousand miles away and ten hours from now, the yachts will be racing on the crushed diamond water under a sky the texture of powdered sapphires. It would be churlish not to concede that the same abundance of natural blessings which gave us the energy to leave has every right to call us back. All in, the whippy's taken. Pulsing like a beacon through the days and nights, the birthplace of the fortunate sends out its invisible waves of recollection. It always has and it always will, until even the last of us come home.
    • Closing lines, p. 174 

  • Vale Clive James, brilliant, prolific, he beguiled us all

    Clive James, an Australian icon and iconoclast has departed, stage right (''Clive James: Literary and TV giant dead at 80'', November 28).
    Much more than the Kid from Kogarah, his sharp wit and verbal skills flourished in foreign soil and he held up a mirror not only to the pretentiousness of much of the manners and morals he found abroad but he was ever aware, like the true artist, of his own fragility and limitations.
    We are fortunate not only for the memories of this great raconteur but for the rich vein of profound thoughts he left us in his memoirs and poems. - Eugene O’Connor, Terara