"My heroes and heroines are here. The reader will recognize some of their names, while other names will be more obscure. My intellectual betes noires are here too, and the same division might apply."
An almanac combining a comprehensive survey of modern culture with an annotated index of who-was-who and what-was-what, Cultural Amnesia is Clive James' unique take on the places and the faces that shaped the 20th century.
From Anna Akhmatova to Stefan Zweig, via Charles de Gaulle, Hitler, Thomas Mann and Charlie Chaplin, this varied and unfailingly absorbing book is both story and history, both public memoir and personal record - and provides an essential field-guide to the vast movements of taste, intellect, politics, and delusion that helped to prepare the times we live in now.
Listen to our fascinating interview with Clive James on the Audible.co.uk Podcast.
©2008 Clive James; (P)2008 Macmillan Digital Audio
"Clever, and funny....a wonderful book for a long afternoon in a left-bank cafe, or a transatlantic plane ride." (The Observer)
"On virtually every page, there is an arresting sentence, witty or profound." (Mail on Sunday)
"It's clever, contentious and funny (like its author). His scope is impressive." (Guardian)
Cultural Amnesia is a ?tour de force? in writing terms but more like a ?tour de France? when reading, especially if you try to do the thing in one go. Using Wikipedia as a study aid I felt like I was in the ring with Sonny Liston who by chapter three had me on the canvas. In one of his earlier books, Fame in the 20th century, Clive James gave an excellent outline of how the famous shaped our world. In Cultural Amnesia he has broadened and deepened these ideas. I found it is accessible only in that he uses words I understand but the concepts saw me using a whiteboard and ?post it? notes. His thoughts criss-cross time and space giving a glimpse of James?s lifetimes reading and reasoning. This can be disconcerting if like me you are thinly read and prone to prejudice. However it is so worth persevering as there is much to learn, many laughs and a constant striving for context. In ?Fame? James ends by making the point that we need these people as we need a map, to help find our way, yet all maps are an over simplification. I would argue that we need Clive himself to help us find our way as Cultural Amnesia changes that scale from glimpse to insight. I have listened to and read the book and am changed for the experience. Had there been a T Shirt I?d be wearing it.
I find Clive James' books quite difficult to read. His knowledge is so great and his reading so wide that I think he finds it difficult to judge what to leave out - and hence it is very hard to follow his train of thought as he jumps all over the place, throwing out, as it were, widely drawn allusions and references.
However, when he reads his own stuff, it becomes much clearer to me - dont ask me why. He has an interesting voice, a good conversational style of delivery and his dry humour keeps coming through. It is much easier to get the point.
I agree with the previous reviewer, though, that this is a book to dip into rather than read all the way through. I listened to it over a few weeks a section at a time but you are rather bound by the order of the book in an audio version (defined break points would have made this easier). Best thing is to have the book and the audio - which is the course I've followed.
Overall, I very much enjoyed the audiobook - and it interested me enough to buy the written version which is good stuff too.
Clive James once complained that he had spent too much time studying at Cambridge while people like Germaine Greer were partying. His time was not wasted... Like his wireless essays on Radio Four his style has a lightness of touch for historical giants and literarati known and unknown. Like harold Bloom he makes you want to read some of the literature referred to or get to know more about some of the topics, such as the Viennese intellectual scene in the 20's and 30's which he covers. Where I am familiar with his subjects he seems to score a bullseye...If he had not wasted so much time on TV he could have done more but perhaps I would not have bothered to listen to this informative and entertaining piece.
The download is one continuous file - 6 hours long. No bookmarks or chapters. The book is written in an alphabetical order and allows you to jump to where you need and this is much more useful. While its not a reference book your enjoyment will be enhanced by being able to jump to appropriate sections. The Times has some filmed excerpts of chapters, and worth viewing for a taster.
Wonderful, an education, illuminating - and I very much enjoyed the reading of this by Clive James. Gave me loads to think about, disagreed with a number of points, but definitely one i'll be returning to...
In a book like this, not having only chapter numbers not who the subject of each chapter is, is a problem as this is a book I'd like to return to quite a bit.
To appreciate this book I had to concentrate 100% and sometimes this wasn't enough. I may give it another go.
James is a reader, a writer and a poet. This book is a reflection over a lifetime of reading by an intelligent, sensitive and humane man. A must read.
Excellent, but to coin a phrase, 'designed to be sipped at rather than gulped.'
Evelyn Waugh's story, because I'd read Brideshead.
None that stand out.
A collection of Historical views, pulled together in time.
Heavy in places, but well worth reading more than once.
If you are a fan of Clive James you will want this summation of a lifetime's reading and thinking. A brilliant writer who can think outside the box of life, he has the wit, nerve, and genius to understand complex ideas and then pass on his knowledge in a form we ordinary mortals can - sometimes, anyway - understand. He is one of the few writers who can come up with a memorable review, an unforgettable poem, a knockout novel, and a stunning memoir. Which prompted the New Yorker to declare that Clive James is a brilliant bunch of guys. Yes, you can tell, I'm a bit of a CJ worshipper. Every home should have a copy of this extraordinary book, in any format you fancy. But do yourself a favour by buying it in hardback as well. It is going to be handled a lot, and you don't want it to fall to bits at a crucial moment. It is unique and wise in so many areas.
... at least then I'd have forgotten this shockingly pretentious tosh. Mr. James knows or has met everyone and is desperate for us to know that that is the case. Own trumpets are blown, chests are puffed out with importance, and all of it without the least guilt or self-consciousness.
"Very enjoyable and well narrated"
I'm usually not a big fan of authors' narration of their own work-I usually prefer more professional readings- but Clive James' reading of his own work was excellent and very enjoyable. I found the book fascinating from the preface right through the last essay. I only wish the version were unabridged.
The essays were both thought-provoking and insightful. They have already sent me back to many of the texts discussed with enhanced understanding and appetite.
This was a fascinating addition to my audio library and so engaging I never missed a beat though driving for hours at a time on a long commute.
"I wish it were unabridged"
I don't usually listen to unabridged texts, so this was a happy accident. Clive James is an excellent reader of his own work. His thought provoking commentary has broadened my literary and cultural horizons. I wish I could have heard all of it.
"A great treasure"
This book is a wonderful, entertaining collection of descriptions of a collection. I didn't know all the people described. Along the way I enjoyed learning a hell of a lot even about the ones I thought I did know. Clive James is the master narrator. He connects stories, intertwines histories and has an amazing insight into the abundance of literary styles and influences.
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