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Clive James Got It Right (newyorker.com)
72 points by Vigier 3 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments

One of my favourite Clive James things was the translation of Dante’s Inferno he did. Instead of the usual ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’ he came up with ‘Abandon your hopes, they are what got you here’. Subtle genius.

Damn. Haven't heard that one before but it's quite poignant.

If you like to read, read Clive James. He is perfectly at home discussing anything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to George Orwell, and his essays are just beautifully done.

Sadness that he died, but he knew it was coming, was grateful the sentence had been deferred for 10 years, and died at home surrounded by "his family and his books". A good end to a brilliant life.

I think this is his final interview:


Chronicles from a Death Foretold

Fortunately also a Death Postponed.

P.S. He hated magical realism - sorry Clive!

The most overrated books almost all emerged simultaneously from a single genre: magic realism.

I can’t stand it.


I've always been a Clive James fan - his silly TV show "Saturday Night Clive" was appointment viewing in my household when I was a teenager. And his fantastic end of year New Years specials were great as well.

Later I read some of his written works. His book companion to his TV documentary series "Fame in the 20th Century" was by turns wry and thoughtful.

I am not normally a poetry kind of guy, but this is hilarious: https://web.cs.dal.ca/~johnston/poetry/bookofmyenemy.html

His Mission: Impossible description reads like an entry from a certain site that deals in commentary on Hackernews posts:

> A disembodied voice briefs the taciturn chief of the Impossibles about the existence—usually in the Eastern European People’s Republic—of a missile formula or nerve-gas guidance system stashed away in an armoured vault with a left-handed chromosympathetic ratchet-valve time lock. The safe is in Secret Police HQ, under the swarthily personal protection of the EEPR’s Security Chief, Vargas. The top Impossible briefs his black, taciturn systems expert and issues him with a left-hand chromosympathetic ratchet-valve time-lock opener. . . . A tall, handsome Impossible, who is even more taciturn than his team-mates, . . . drives the team to the EEPR, which is apparently located somewhere in Los Angeles, since it takes no time at all to get there by road and everyone speaks English when you arrive.


In 1991 Clive James did a Television New Year review.

Part of that was the cultural phenomenon of Terminator 2.

They show the scene where Sarah Connor escapes her asylum cell only to round the corner and run bodily into Arnie. Sarah panics and primal screams.. Arnie gets out the shotgun and blasts the T1000...

then the camera cuts back to Clive James who said:

"... and that was just The Love Scene"

As someone trying to revive my artistic sensibility and get back to making music, this hit home hard:

> Writers who are not romantic about the wrong things will never be romantic about the right ones, either.

It's virtually impossible to make art while listening to the nagging voice telling my I might look foolish doing so.

Yeah, gotta find a way to ignore that voice. As a starting point, consider making art nobody else can see/hear/experience. Also, the book "Creative Confidence" is a great read.

Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative is a great book on similar themes. (The sequel Show Your Work! is also good) Also Creating a Life Worth Living had a huge impact on me - it's full of interviews with creative types of all kinds, and talks about how many different ways/styles of structuring your time and life there are, and how to find one that works for you.

When I was a jazz musician in my early 20s, I did a lot of negative self-talk on gigs. "Oh, that was awful! Oh yuk, Argghh that sux. Nooo...Terrible" etc. It made me sound terrible. Self-torture. Then I read a book Effortless Mastery, from which I learnt Never criticize yourself on gigs. The time for that is when you practise. And since then I never do that. I just enjoy myself and play. It really changed my life. And also learning about loving yourself - realizing that it's all too easy to be careful about treating other people well, always being kind, while being extremely mean to yourself. Louise Hay's How to Love Yourself is the book on that subject, I think.

Thank you, all of those are right up my alley. I added them all to my to-read list. (Of course, the hard part is setting aside the time to actually read them...)

Can thoroughly recommend his 'Cultural Amnesia' with its highly eclectic collection of thoughts on almost 100 people as disparate as Louis Armstrong, Terry Gilliam, Hitler, Mao, Kafka, Fellini, Beatrix Potter, Sartre, Tacitus, Thatcher, Wittgenstein and Stefan Zweig.

I picked up his Poetry Notebook back in 2015 but never managed to find the time for it. As I've begun exploring poetry once more anyway, it is long past time to finally read the book. Rest in peace and thank you for giving so much of yourself to the world.

I knew him first as a lyric writer. The article mentions Beware of the Beautiful Stranger, which really is wonderful, but some of his other lyrics are pure genius, too.

I highly recommend the albums Beware of the Beautiful Stranger and Live Libel if you're in to slightly folky music with insanely clever words.

Now that he's been remaindered, I wonder who his enemy was.

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