Clive James

Cultural Polyglot and media personality.

For whatever one might learn from life, one wonders how much of it was one's own inclination or the initiative of others that one just stumbled on - in which case a debt of gratitude must at least be acknowledged.

I came across the web site of Clive James some years back. Having known him through his British TV programs, I was more interested in his take on the world as a media critic but I had no idea how keenly he pursued literature, especially poetry. The ABC Radio 'Booktalk' broadcasts of his dialogues with the late Australian poet, Peter Porter, must be a unique event in the annals of literary criticism. Not unique just because they go through the entire scope of European literature but because of the chatty informality with which the weightiness of the subject is lightened with wisdom and humour. These dialogues acted as a catalyst and started a whole new chapter in my life because without being too analytical they gave me an idea of how literature operates - the 'mechanics of language' as it were. Opening my ears opened my eyes and not only did it spur on a more structured approach to writing, I began to see how verse was meant to be read - and how parsing might also operate in painting and indeed architecture.

So I extend to Clive James my deepest gratitude, many years ago for amusing me through some cold evenings with his talk shows and now with the Internet, for giving me that much needed guiding hand.

Roman Polanski Interview
Diaglogues with Peter Porter

A Critic and a Poet
Pauline Kael showed us how to talk about popular art and fall in love with movies.
By Clive James, The Atlantic
September 2012