Monday, June 26, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Clive James


Expatriate Australian writer, poet, essayist, critic, and commentator on popular culture.
Clive James
A man who wants to find out who he really is should try watching the woman he loves as she dances the tango with a maestro.
James quotes
In The Bob Hope Golf Classic (LWT) the participation of President Gerald Ford was more than enough to remind you that the nuclear button was at one stage at the disposal of a man who might have either pressed it by mistake or else pressed it deliberately in order to obtain room service.
James
In a piece written circa 1960 called 'The Twelve Caesars' he said that world events were the work of individuals and that the motives of those individuals were often frivolous, even casual. There is something of Suetonius and Plutarch in Vidal's unblushing readiness to view contemporary history in terms of character.




James Clive quotes
One of [Mann's] many reasons for hating the Third Reich was that it forced him to be a better man than he really was.
James Clive
Martin, rather than step into the spotlight, would prefer to die in an unarmed attack on the power station supplying its electric current. His genuine modesty is the main reason for the fateful discrepancy between him and the journalistic literary sexton beetles who make copy out of him: they would like to receive the degree of attention that he would like to avoid, and the clearer it becomes that he would like to avoid it, the more they resent him for failing to appreciate their generosity.
Clive James quotes
[[T]he question of originality, if it arises at all, can never be peripheral: originality is more than a requirement in good poetry, it is a description of it.
Clive James
In Australia during WWII, a couple of established poets invented the supposedly nonsensical works of a fictitious poet called Ern Malley and used them to discredit the modernist pretensions of the young editor who printed them. It never occurred to them that as writers of talent they were not in a position to suppose that they could deliberately write something perfectly meaningless.
James Clive quotes
[H]e could never have played the hero, because for him it was creativity itself that had the heroic status, beyond politics, beyond patriotism, beyond even personal happiness. Itís the reason why his work is like that. His poetry, so wonderful when it is really flying, isnít trying to tell you how much he knows. Itís giving thanks for how much there is to be known.
James
If Brideshead Revisited is not a great book, it's so like a great book that many of us, at least while reading it, find it hard to tell the difference.
James Clive
Everything the British Empire built here will be history. Most of it already is, but itís a history that has left its mark. In the War Cemetery at Sai Wan Bay you can see it clearly: understated but indelible. The armed forces of Imperial Japan tried to enslave the whole of the East, including Japan itself. Caught up in the terrible war that raged in Asia and the Pacific, a lot of our people who came out here to fight never came home. They died in a good cause. But if the people in this graveyard were somehow to learn that yet another tyranny was on the way, they would find it hard to rest in peace. One of them is my father, who has lain here now for fifty years. He lived and died under our old empire without ever thinking that it was wonderful beyond question. But he thought that it created more than it destroyed, and he was right. The best hope of our last colony is that when the men from the mainland finally take over they will not try to rewrite history by pretending we were never here. Some of us will always be here.
Clive James
Speer never made the mistake of saying there were no extermination camps. He said he didn't know about them. He impressed the gullible by declaring himself willing to accept responsibility for Nazi crimes even though he was not aware of their full scope. But as the man better informed about the Reich's industrial resources than anybody else including Hitler, Speer was in fact fully aware of the purpose and the extent of the Final Solution and by pretending he was not he did the opposite of accepting responsibility.




Clive James quotes
There is a consoling mythology, constantly being added to, which would have us believe that genius operates beyond donkey work. Thus we are told reassuringly that Einstein was no better at arithmetic than we are; that Mozart gaily broke the rules of composition while jotting down a stream of black dots without even looking; and that Shakespeare didn't care about grammar. Superficially, there are facts to lend substance to these illusions. But illusions they remain. There is always some autistic child in India who can speak in prime numbers, but that doesn't mean Einstein couldn't add up; Mozart would not have been able to break the rules in an interesting way unless he was able to keep them if required; and Shakespeare, far from being careless about grammar, could depart from it in any direction only because he had first mastered it as a structure.
Clive James
Sartre, whose underground activities had never amounted to anything except a secret meeting on Wednesday to decide whether there should be another meeting the following Tuesday, not only claimed the status of Resistance veteran but called down vengeance on people whose behaviour had not really been all that much more reprehensible than his own.
James quotes
On the surface of the water, a midge vanishes into a hungry ripple. I'm not ready yet. He wonders why, at his age and having come so far, he still feels that. The culmination of his luck is that he will never feel any other way.
James Clive
When Humphries writes in propria persona his prose can scarcely contain its freight of cultivated allusions. He writes the most nutritiously rococo English in Australia today, but nobody will be able to inherit it. To know him would not be enough. You would have to know what he knows.
James Clive quotes
In Germany, everyone knew that helping or hiding Jews was an unpardonable crime, which would be punished as severely as an attack on Hitlerís life Ė because it was an attack on Hitlerís life. Why, Goldhagen asks, did the population not rise up? The answer is obvious: because you had to be a hero to do so.
Clive James
The new Germany is a democracy. So was the old Germany, or it tried to be: but then the Nazis got on, and Hell broke loose. It can break loose anywhere: all people have hellish propensities.
Clive James quotes
Schnabel said that Beethoven's late piano sonatas are music better than could be played. Larkin's best poems are poetry better than can be said, but sayability they sumptuously offer. Larkin demands to be read aloud. His big, intricately formed stanzas, often bridging from one to the next, defeat the single breath but always invite it. As you read, the ideal human voice speaks in your head. It isn't his: as his gramophone records prove, he sounded like someone who expects to be interrupted. It isn't yours, either. It's ours.
Clive James
[In Marcel Ophuls' film The Memory of Justice] Mad old Nazis were to be heard deploring modern decadence. 'The difference is, we weren't obsessed with smut,' said one comfortable, retired SS man, all unaware of being up to his neck in blood and pus.
James Clive
The answer to the nagging conundrum of how a civilized country like Germany could produce the Holocaust is that Germany ceased to be civilized from the moment Hitler came to power.


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