Is Clive James too clever for his own good?

This morning I read Michele Hewitson 's piece in the Herald online about her encounter with Clive James. It was the second item of hers I had read in two days. Yesterday I read the article in Canvas about the joys/terrors of opening a restaurant. the latter I felt was remarkably good - in the immersive journalistic style one might expect to read in Rolling Stone back in the days of Hunter S. Thompson or Tom Wolfe. I enjoyed it - too many articles these days are pieced together from telephone interviews and web research (resurf?) with more than a dash of polemic, Jeremy Clarksonismic irony.

The Clive James article was a little irritating. Probably because Clive James can be a little irritating. There is something odd about the man that I can't fathom. There's no doubt that he is very well read and is a humorous and engaging writer. I grew up reading his television reviews - which paved the way for the likes of Charlie Brooker and I enjoyed at least the first of his autobiographical installments. The thing about James is that he seems to try too hard. Maybe it is his Australian origins that mean he must prove his intellect, rather than simply be smart.

He puts himself a little too 'out there' for my taste - I don't really care about his 'love' of Diana, Princess of Wales. The repetition of that fascination in media makes me think of someone who buys the women's weeklies because they are fixated with Jennifer Aniston's tribulations since breaking up with Brad Pitt (or Angelina Jolie's since hooking up with same). A little sad. And it seems creepy for an elderly gentleman to continue to talk about it or be drawn on it by reporters.

A friend had bought a copy of his book - Cultural Amnesia - and I was leafing through it the other day. Thought it might make a good bedside reader - the sort of thing you can dip in and out of - an anthology of biographies. It is a hefty work though (and I couldn't help but notice the hefty price) perhaps I'll borrow it when she's done.

Don't get me wrong though. I enjoy Clive James' wit and prose. And I enjoyed reading Hewitson's articles. Must look out for them in the future. (Though the Clive James story felt a little padded out or dissembled to make word-count).


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