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Unreliable Memoirs: Autobiography (Picador Books) [Paperback]

Clive James
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

7 Nov 2008 Picador Books

‘I was born in 1939. The other big event of that year was the outbreak of the Second World War, but for the moment, that did not affect me.’

In the first instalment of Clive James’s memoirs, we meet the young Clive, dressed in short trousers, and wrestling with the demands of school, various relatives and the occasional snake, in the suburbs of post-war Sydney. His adventures are hilarious, his recounting of them even more so, in this – the book that started it all . . .

‘You can’t put it down once started. Its addictive powers stun all normal, decent resistance within seconds. Not to be missed’ Sunday Times

‘All that really needs to be said to recommend Unreliable Memoirs is that James writes exactly as he talks, which is all his millions of fans could wish’ Evening Standard

Frequently Bought Together

Unreliable Memoirs: Autobiography (Picador Books) + Falling Towards England : Unreliable Memoirs II + May Week Was In June
Price For All Three: 21.07

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New Ed edition (7 Nov 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 033026463X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330264631
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 13 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 123,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Clive James is the author of more than twenty books, including four previous volumes of autobiography (Unreliable Memoirs, Falling Towards England, May Week was in June and North Face of Soho), collections of literary and television criticism, essays, travel writing, verse and novels. In 1992 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia and in 2003 he was awarded the Philip Hodgins memorial medal for literature. His most recent poetry collection, Angels Over Elsinore, was shortlisted for the 2009 Costa Prize for Poetry.

Product Description


'A blissful account of a tragi-comic Australian boyhood by Australia's wittiest living writer.' --Red

About the Author

Clive James is the author of more than thirty books. As well as his memoirs, he has published essays, literary and television criticism, travel writing, verse and novels. As a television performer he has appeared regularly for both the BBC and ITV, most notably as writer and presenter of the Postcard series of travel documentaries. He helped to found the independent television production company Watchmaker and the Internet enterprise Welcome Stranger, one of whose offshoots is a multimedia personal website, www.clivejames.com. In 1992 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia and in 2003 he was awarded the Philip Hodgins memorial medal for literature.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heroic recollection of an Australian childhood 13 Sep 2004
"Unrelaible Memoirs" is Clive James' description of his upbringing in a Sydney suburb lasting up to the time of his university education. I was expecting it to be funny but wasn't quite prepared for the raw emotion and literary skill displayed on virtually every page.
To me this is perhaps the most impressive of James' autobiographical writing. He has a special gift for describing childhood and a kind of fearless honesty which is hilarious and provides something of a turbulent rollercoaster ride for the reader, as he describes the trauma of being a single child to a single parent in the aftermath of the second world war.
I felt a little left behind by many of the historical and literary references James makes but this is more than made up for by the relish with which he uses the English language. For example, he describes a friend's mother giving him buttered bread covered with hundreds and thousands as like "eating a powdered rainbow".
"Unreliable Memoirs" made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I wish I had read it years ago.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the funniest books ever 24 Sep 2009
This is one of the few books where I have genuinely laughed out loud, the part where the soldier puts the bomb into gun backwards had me in hysterics, unfortunately I was on a crowded train at the time

Fabulous book and very well written. How I wish I could write like that
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Clive James is the funniest man we have.
Just take this paragraph as an example :
Unreliable Memoirs By Clive James pp97-98
'...swarms of girls wearing Speedo swimming costumes. The Speedo was a thin, dark blue one-piece affair whose shoulder straps some of the girls tied together behind with a ribbon so as to tauten the fabric over their pretty bosoms. On a correctly formed pubescent girl a Speedo looked wonderful, even when it was dry. When it was wet, it was an incitement to riot.'
Funny and revealing with a heartbreaking account of how his father became a POW in changi and never returned.
Its something of a cliche, but I'd describe Unreliable Memoirs by Clive James as a 'bellyful of laughs and a bucketfull of tears'.
A must read book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short, Sweet and Hilarious ! 30 Dec 2007
As it is so funny, I read this book about every 5 years for a 'top-up'. I always enjoyed the scribings of Clive James in his 'The Observer' articles critiquing TV, so am already attracted to his style of writing.

This volume covers the his first years and, whilst his childhood is not necessarily that remarkable or so different from many other people, it is the way he writes about the various happenings through his life that make it so enjoyable to read.

Admittedly for British readers such as me, there are certain aspects which make it more of an attractive read due to his upbringing being in another country, but the central reason why this book makes me laugh so much is the way he delivers a literary 'punchline'.

The conciseness of the text also means there is little chance the reader will get bored, since no single subject is covered for very long.

This book, along with the following volumes covering his later life on arrival in the UK, is thoroughly recommended !
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An antidote to bad times! 6 Oct 2003
By Seren
I have owned this book since its first publishing in paperback and it has stood me in good stead through divorce, depression and hospitilization. In short if black clouds are looming this book will chase them away. Snot snortingly funny, well written and honestly moving. Its the one book I would never want to be without. Buy it - you won't regret it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LOL 16 Sep 2012
By Jacam
Clive James is a genius who marries up pathos with humour in such a way as to opens up your own life story along the way.He is honest and sincere. Read it and LOL,wince a little, shed a tear or two. Unforgetable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars James is best at this! 3 Aug 2012
By yoblair
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Having liked and enjoyed James' wry points of view, I decided to actually read the Aussie charmer for the first time. I found this book to be at least in the spirit of honesty, but more importantly, it sounded like Clive James...there is an authenticity to this voice which isn't, (in my view at least) present in his more 'academic' endeavours. He has an American writer's talent for pithy epigrammatic comment, but enough reading to give genuine literary merit to his descriptions of early life and childhood in a Sydney suburb. His mother is sketched in, whereas his school mates and other associates are more deliberately described. James is in thrall to academia and scholarship; bohemianism and the Literary giants, but is constantly fighting a rearguard action to comically portray his humbler origins, so that we don't misconstrue him as pretentious. He isn't pretentious, but his aspirations were, and indeed had to be, so the reader is left with a great deal of sympathy and enjoyment of a disarmingly funny and bright youngster, trying to find his direction in life without the help of a father and with a tang of the Tom Sawyer about him. I laughed out loud... and that is what Clive James has always done for his readers and his friends, which in my view makes him more valuable than a million academic aspirations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unreliable Memoirs 30 Jun 2012
By Polly
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I first read this book about 20 years ago and remembered it as extremely funny - reducing me to embarrasing fits of laughter in the hairdressers. Having heard Clive James being intervied recently on the radio, I was curious to see if the passage of time would reduce my amusement.

I'm delighted to say it has not. Gales of uncontrollable giggles, tears of laughter and sheer delight at re-reading this delicious book.

Thank you for delivering my order so promptly.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars disppointed
I had read an excerpt from this book and had expected more.In fact t h at excerpt was probably the only bit where I did laugh out loud. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Ellie
5.0 out of 5 stars self deprecatingly funny
if you like Clive James' style, you'll love this. tales of his childhood in suburban Australia, with enough accidents and mischief to be familiar to all of us-my favourite story is... Read more
Published 9 days ago by Gail
1.0 out of 5 stars ???
Clive James, terminally egocentric self-publicist. I shan't make this mistake again. I bought this book because I thought it would be funny.
Published 2 months ago by Tyandree
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
I liked it and enjoyed most of it.
This note needs more words so this is padding it out further.
Published 4 months ago by Philip Davey
1.0 out of 5 stars Australian Youth
A series of somewhat only mildly interesting tales of a man's childhood and youth which many of us have experienced personally. Some humour but with no subtlety.
Published 6 months ago by JK
5.0 out of 5 stars Most fun I've ever had reading a book
I first read this book when I was about 25, I'm now 48. This is a book I have bought so many times, because each time I read it I enjoy it so much I have to pass it on to someone... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Wendy L
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring, Boring
I nearly always read a book until the end ,but made an exception with this.
When Clive was still in the cubs at chapter six I decided to call it a day.
Published 7 months ago by john hall
3.0 out of 5 stars Clive James
I quite enjoyed the first few chapters finding them amusing but as the book continued I became slightly annoyed at James's self deprecating attitude. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Rosemary Lake
5.0 out of 5 stars Great humour
Read this years ago and don't know what happened to the book. The humour provides a lift to the spirits
Published 9 months ago by donald walmsley
5.0 out of 5 stars Paralle universe
Really funny and spooky how Australian kids lived in the same fantasy world as I did in the UK. Very amusing
Published 11 months ago by Mr. Bernard Collen
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