Posted 20 hours ago

Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time

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In the rich tradition of French aphorists” he committed suicide when faced with the guillotine in 1794. I find myself starting with those figures I feel I know best (which is never as well as James) and drifting onto the (for me) relatively obscure names. We take pride in offering a wide selection of used books, from classics to hidden gems, ensuring there is something for every literary palate. Still, although there are a lot of fascinating characters in the book, the overwhelming presence is of Clive James himself, and I don't believe he ever had any other intention. I loved his essay on Duke Ellington, for instance, because I've danced to his music for years and knew only a small amount of the peripheral knowledge of the time that James has to offer.

Whether you agree with him or not about Portman, in James’ ardor, poor old guillotined Sophie Scholl gets lost in the Hollywood gush and semi-amateur movie casting.In the job we can have a profile written about us, and be summed up: all the profiles will be the same, and all the summaries add up to the same thing. I can't help thinking that Clive James {still with us at 78, despite a long illness} is quite simply the finest living essayist in English.

Although it putatively focuses on the twentieth century, there are some notable names from rather earlier, including Keats and Montaigne. This international bestseller is an encyclopedic A-Z masterpiece--the perfect introduction to the very core of Western humanism.

If I was determined on avoiding those broad divisions that I thought not only artificial but actively inimical to my view, the question was bound to keep on arising of where the book’s unity was to come from. What this book then proposes—what it embodies, I hope—is something difficult enough to be satisfactory for an age in which to be presented with nothing except reassurance is ceasing to be tolerable. This much, however, I do know: it would not be a mind at all if its owner had allowed his multiplicity of interests to be restricted by a formula.

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