This is an amazing book, unlike anything else I’ve ever come across. Don’t be put off by its sheer size, by its odd title, by the unfamiliarity of many of the names in its alphabetical list of subjects (writers, film stars, musicians, politicians, you name it), or by the fact that it looks at first glance like a work of reference. A better title would perhaps have been “Reliable Memoirs”, because what it’s really doing is filling in the gaps in Clive James’s sequence of “Unreliable Memoirs”.
It consists of a hundred or more brief articles based on quotes noted down during a lifetime’s extensive reading, any one of which is liable at any point to go off at a tangent on a hugely entertaining digression. It’s not meant to be read from cover to cover, but you’ll have a great time dotting around in it. Guaranteed you’ll make loads of notes yourself in your own turn – memorable quotes, jokes, revelatory perceptions, writers you’d never heard of whom all of a sudden you really want to read.
If you’ve ever enjoyed any of Clive James’s writing – reviews, memoirs, songs, whatever – don’t hesitate. It’s a book to keep with you always and to keep returning to.