Clive James is the author of many books of criticism, autobiography, fiction, and poetry. Among his books are Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts, The Blaze of Obscurity, and A Point of View.

Golden Boy

Among my generation of aesthetes, bohemians, proto-dropouts, and incipient eternal students at Sydney University in the late 1950s, Robert Hughes was the golden boy. Still drawing and painting in those days, he wrote mainly as a sideline, but his sideline ran rings around his contemporaries, and his good looks and …

Great Days

At an advanced point in his already prolific career, the Australian writer David Malouf has produced a book of fresh beginnings. Nominally a collection of nine short stories, Dream Stuff could just as easily be nine different outlines for new novels, each of them remarkably unlike any novel he has …

Secret Intelligence

Concealing itself with a squirt of ink, the octopus makes a cloud which if seen from far enough away looks like a revelation. Alec Guinness’s autobiography has been a big hit in his native country. The British value their actor-knights so highly that they bought even Lord Olivier’s autobiography, an …

A Feelthy Penguin

Everything has been done to make this little anthology of off-color verse as repellent as possible. It is subtitled “A Pleasant Collection,” for coyness. On the title page there is a jocular penguin reading a book equipped with a flagrant pair of fake boobs, for vulgarity. Finally there is the …

His Brilliant Career

Australia is still a foreign country for everyone including Australians, most of whom live in the cities and rarely penetrate into the hinterland, although in the last quarter-century or so there has been a determined attempt at cultural self-discovery. But most of the discovering has had to be done in …

That Old Black and White Magic

The flow of photographic images from the past suggests that what we are already experiencing as a deepening flood in the present will seem, in the near future, like a terminal inundation. Most of the theoretical works purporting to find some sort of pattern in the cataract of pictures only …

Laughter in the Dark

Though it deserved all the praise it got, The Yawning Heights was nevertheless of a size bound to tell against its long-term fortune. Its successor, The Radiant Future, treats the same themes at about half the length. It would be nice to think that Zinoviev had now, after recovering from …

Hit Parade

There are several glaring omissions, but otherwise The Oxford Book of Satirical Verse is one of the best anthologies by the best modern anthologist. Geoffrey Grigson has always had a way of picking plums. His famous anthology of the Thirties, New Verse, remains a good introduction to the póetry of …

The Gentle Slope of Castalia

The very first book illustrated with photographs, William Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature (1844), carried as an epigraph a quotation from Virgil. Talbot, who was a learned classicist as well as a chemist clever enough to invent photography, enlisted Virgil’s aid in declaring how sweet it was to cross …

Waugh’s Last Stand

Unless the telephone is uninvented, this will probably be the last collection of letters by a great writer to be also a great collection of letters. It could be argued that the book should have been either much shorter, so as to be easily assimilable, or else much larger, so …

Fannikins’s Cunnikin

Not long ago there was a popular novelist called Jeffrey Farnol, who is now entirely forgotten—which, when you think about it, is as long ago as you can get. Farnol wrote period novels in a narrative style full of e’ens, dosts, ’tises, and ’twases. Men wearing slashed doublets said things …

Voznesensky’s Case

Twelve years ago Antiworlds and the Fifth Ace, a bilingual volume to which several distinguished poets contributed translations under the editorship of Max Hayward and Patricia Blake, left nobody in doubt of Andrei Voznesensky’s invigorating talent. This new volume, in whose editing the admirable Mr. Hayward, who recently died, again …

From the Pit

Before the Revolution, there was Russian literature. Since the Revolution, except for an early and brief period when the good writers were as optimistic as the bad, there has been, for the most part, the literature of Russian dissidence. Its qualities and categories are hard to define, but lately the …

Looking Backward

Anthony Burgess has words the way the be-bop saxophonists used to have notes—in scads. With him as with them, you have to hear something slow before you can make up your mind. Nothing Like the Sun and the Enderby books prove that Burgess is as clever as he seems. His …

Pensée Persons

The narrator of Gore Vidal’s new novel, Teddy Ottinger, is a surgically revamped bi-sexual beauty sharing many characteristics with one of his previous heroines. The hero she does most of her narrating about, James J. Kelly, a k a Kalki, has come to announce the end of the world. Not …

Go Back to the Cold!

Le Carré’s new novel is about twice as long as it should be. It falls with a dull thud into the second category of le Carré’s books—those which are greeted as being something more than merely entertaining. Their increasingly obvious lack of mere entertainment is certainly strong evidence that le …

Dissatisfactions of Power

In contrast to the US, which so far has been asked to deal with only one volume of the late R.H. Crossman’s Diaries, Great Britain by now finds itself contending with two, comprising more than 1,500 pages of text. Philosophers are divided on the question of whether the narrative therein …

Sherlockology

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote little about Sherlock Holmes compared with what has been written by other people since. Sherlock has always been popular, on a scale never less than worldwide, but the subsidiary literature which has steadily heaped up around him can’t be accounted for merely by referring to …