Clive James, King's Lynn

The New Yorker once aptly dubbed Clive James “a brilliant bunch of guys” and by some miracle James' snickering tabloid TV persona has never managed to trip up his career as a prolific journalist.

By MIRANDA YATES

The New Yorker once aptly dubbed Clive James “a brilliant bunch of guys” and by some miracle James' snickering tabloid TV persona has never managed to trip up his career as a prolific journalist.

This was a rare public performance for Clive, at King's Lynn Arts Centre, and the critic and launched the collection of his best “reliable essays” garnered from over 30 fertile years of writing.

On stage one almost expects to witness some terrible hybrid of two guys named Clive. You anticipate James' wry mouth oozing with the ripe juice of his own purple prose, his humour sitting high on the cushion of his erudition.

However in performance he is seriously entertaining but offers up his prose gingerly and pedantically, as if playing nanny to someone else's brainchild. His review of a biography on Muggeridge resonated with acute socio-political insights, easy journalistic sarcasm and an intuitive understanding of human flaws.

The depth of James' reading is breathtaking and the fact that his writing tirelessly forces us to confront the breadth of his learning; far from revealing pretension he betrays a childlike desire to share his learning and let us in to see what he sees.

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