Friday, February 10

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Clive James.

In the early 1960s, four Australian ex-pats arrived in England, where they would burrow into the cultural establishment and become the ultimate inside-outsiders. Each of them possessed an earthy provincialism and a fizzing intellect; their common ambition was to immerse themselves in the European intellectual tradition and, in turn, to take their respective places within it. Each of them succeeded brilliantly. The four antipodeans were Robert Hughes (a personal favorite), Barry Humphries (a.k.a. Dame Edna Everage, a.k.a Sir Les Patterson); Germaine Greer, and Clive James.

Of the four, Clive James is probably the least well known on this side of the pond, but he is a giant in his adopted London. He has excelled as a poet (his poems still frequently appear in the Spectator), television writer, television critic (he may be the best living t.v. critic), television and radio personality, cultural critic, and raconteur.

He has also recently bellied up to the bar of the electronic age and launched a comprehensive which he intends to archive his life's (impressive) work. Although he does not own the rights to some of his best television work, what he has assembled provides hours of enlightenment. The website is divided into four main sections: video, audio, gallery, and text. Of these, text is the most expansive and gallery the least. The most immediately interesting, however, are video and audio. "Video" features Clive's interviews (they are really intimate conversations) in his library with friends and acquaintances ranging from fellow Australian Cate Blanchett (in my bold opinion the greatest screen actress under 50 today) to American libertarian contrarian P.J. O'Rourke, from Simon Callow to Martin Amis, and from Piers Paul Read to Julian Barnes. Also highly recommended are his extemporaneous conversations with the Australian ex-pat poet Peter Porter. These conversations were originally broadcast by ABC (the Australian public broadcaster) and they are a delightful record of two provocative and precocious minds engaging on a level of intimacy only attainable between old and dear friends.

I highly recommend both the video conversation with P.J. O'Rourke, which took place only a week after 9/11 and contains some prescient remarks by both James and O'Rourke, and the audio conversation with Porter entitled "On not having a classical education."

I don't agree with half of what Clive James has to say, but it is all worth hearing and thinking about. Thank you, Clive, for this resource.