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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed monster is king
Clive James continues telling the story of his life by describing the years he spent wrestling with the one-eyed monster that is television: trying to make entertaining programmes that were interesting, told a story, or produced some penetrating insight from a celebrity guest. Although I'm a big fan of his writing, I should say that I'm less interested in his work for TV...
Published on 8 Feb 2011 by Jeremy Walton

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1.0 out of 5 stars Why is this listed as "Humour"?
I have enjoyed James' previous autobiographical books which concentrated on amusing anecdotes of his early life in Australia and his subsequent move to the UK. However, I can only report that this volume is nothing but extremely boring. 99% of the 75% of the book I managed to read concentrated on persons obviously well known to the author but unknown to 99% of the general...
Published 1 month ago by Mr Tony Edwards


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed monster is king, 8 Feb 2011
By 
Jeremy Walton (Sidmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
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Clive James continues telling the story of his life by describing the years he spent wrestling with the one-eyed monster that is television: trying to make entertaining programmes that were interesting, told a story, or produced some penetrating insight from a celebrity guest. Although I'm a big fan of his writing, I should say that I'm less interested in his work for TV - partly because, not possessing one, I've hardly seen any of it, and also because I'm less enamoured of his speaking voice than his writing one. So my expectations of this book weren't high before I started it. As it turned out, however, I ended up enjoying it a lot - in fact, somewhat more than the previous volume of his memoirs, North Face of Soho, which deals with his entry into the London media world.

I think one of the reasons for this is that there's more going on: the scouring of the world's TV output for the peculiar or amusing (culminating in - or rather, beginning with - his exposure of the Japanese game show "Endurance"), the trips to cities around the world for the "Postcard" series, the celebrity interviews and the end-of-the-year show. He describes the work that goes into putting the programmes together, highlights what can go wrong when some important detail is missed, and is always careful to acknowledge the efforts of his colleagues (the producers, the editors, the researchers) lest anyone think that all he had to do was turn up and start talking. He also describes how much time all this takes, and how he tried to find space in a packed schedule in order to write essays and reviews (collected together in books like Snake Charmers in Texas and The Dreaming Swimmer), novels such as Brrm! Brrm! and The Silver Castle and, indeed, earlier volumes of his memoirs (a self-reference which reminds me of a hall of mirrors, or a serpent eating its tail).

The jokes don't come as thick or fast as in some of his other books, and certainly not as much as the first instalment (Unreliable Memoirs) which is one of the funniest books I've ever read. Instead, there's more of a sober assessment of what he's (tried to) produce, and a consciousness of the passing of time (this book was published on his 70th birthday). The valedictory note becomes more prevalent at the close, when he muses on colleagues and friends - including the Princess of Wales - now departed. The limits of time and energy are what we all have to work within, but not all of us transcend them as well as this most adept of writers. Even as he lays down the final word on p325 ("I've always been a lucky man") he characteristically anticipates the reaction of a reader who thinks they've detected his swollen head: "Try to forgive me if I pay myself the compliment that I was wise enough to know it".
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Return of the Metropolitan Critic, 4 Oct 2009
By 
Obelix (Ancient Gaul) - See all my reviews
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In 1982 Clive James migrated to television full time. Before that he had led a charmed, if precarious, life in Fleet Street, eventually landing a job as the Observer's TV critic. This, the fifth volume of his Unreliable Memoirs, is the story of what happened next.

In the first volume in the series, James warned us we were getting a novel disguised as an autobiography. But by the time you get to the fourth volume, North Face of Soho, fact seems to have elbowed fiction aside. That's no bad thing, for fiction just wouldn't have kept the pace - and it's something critics forever peddling the 'that-bighead-Clive James' line would do well to consider.

TV, in James's account, seems just like theatre on a larger scale: i.e. its natural state is impending disaster somehow turning out just fine. The smallest things take days of painstaking preparation. Linking shots, satellite interviews and Billy Connolly's suits are to this volume what Kogarah's spiders and snakes were to the first one. As before, stories that might be cruel on the first read are saved by generosity. Read his account of interviewing Tammy Faye Bakker, wife of the 'gate-mouthed television evangelist' Jim Bakker, to see what what I'm talking about. For readers who knew James as a TV personality first, the pleasure of these anecdotes - and the ones about Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Kate Winslett, Peter O'Toole and Princess Diana - can only be greater.

But that's not to say his sympathy is without limits. If there's one good thing to say for Hugh Hefner, it's that he pushes James's satire towards the heights of his 'Edward Pygge' parodies and classic essay, 'Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Masses'. A warning: if your wife is like mine, don't read chapter 22 (regarding Jason Donovan) aloud, unless you have a comfy sofa to sleep on.

If not as assured as Unreliable Memoirs or as wise as North Face of Soho, it's still a rewarding read, and more so for describing what happened where we could all see it. It'll be a sad day when the series' sixth and final volume is published.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Looking back in anger, 23 Oct 2009
By 
Amazon Customer "Boo62" (Ilkeston Derbyshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Clive James continues his memoirs with the section that most of the public,(myself included), remember him best for, his work on TV. He talks of the pioneering methods used on 'Clive James' on TV such as the, not always entirely successful, satellite link ups and a weekly look at other cultures on their own TV stations, such as the entirely unhinged Japanese game show 'Endurance' which often seemed to Western audiences more like legalized torture than fun. He talks candidly here of many interviews both those that worked and the often far more interesting disasters.
There is no doubt James is not trying to bite the feeding hand here but it has to be said his inability to view all his recollections with anything other than a very jaundiced eye becomes pretty wearing before too long. However this has to be pointed out as being a minor grumble as the sheer weight of fascinating memories and the huge array of stars, many of whom have since passed away, and equally fascinating stories really do hold you transfixed as he openly shares his thoughts.
His impact on the way television was presented and the way a shows presenter should behave challenged the rather stuffy ideals of his day and opened up the world, not simply to be laughed at, but to be embraced and admired.
It's to his credit he doesn't spend any time blowing his own trumpet here and, despite the sharp humour, he does seem to appreciate the contribution of all the people he met.
I suppose this was always going to suffer in comparison with the previous 4 volumes which were erudite and insightful with a wealth of knowledge on display. After all television more often than not dumbs everything down and so memoirs of a television career are going to reflect that dumbing down to some extent.
Nevertheless even the weakest of his autobiographies is funnier, sharper & far more interesting than the vast majority of truly dull memoirs which flood the bookshelves every month. Unlike those Mr.James has something to say and has been blessed with a keen wit and searching eye that makes his memories come alive.
So all in all this is perhaps a little waspish but he remains a very genial host well worth listening to.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Why is this listed as "Humour"?, 10 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Blaze of Obscurity: Unreliable Memoirs V (Kindle Edition)
I have enjoyed James' previous autobiographical books which concentrated on amusing anecdotes of his early life in Australia and his subsequent move to the UK. However, I can only report that this volume is nothing but extremely boring. 99% of the 75% of the book I managed to read concentrated on persons obviously well known to the author but unknown to 99% of the general public. Sadly unentertaining
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome addition to the series, 4 Nov 2009
By 
oz (Vaour France) - See all my reviews
Mr. James guides us through his wonderful T.V. years and for one who stayed in for at least two of his New Year specials I'm glad his personal finances were such that he had to stick with his main bread winner for so long. His thirst for knowledge and insight into the human condition mirrors his own personal journey of self discovery.
I think this and his other writings reveal the split in his own personality or at least his indecision in his desire to entertain [and reach] a lot of people a little or impress a very few people a lot. I detect a little selfish guilt [undeserved] that his T.V. work and his observance of the practicalities of live in sucessfully maintaining a family have somehow hampered his artistic output.
A sharp critic does not always have the ability to produce original work themselves but Mr. James demonstrates both attributes in spades. As with Niven he writes generously and tries to see the best in people. This in places is where he fails to convince. For a man who can understand why a marriage lasts, has the mature intellect to appreciate his own mores and takes care to define the differences between fundamentalism and extremism and then lets Mel Gibson off the hook, loses himself a star. Mr Gibson appears to be both a fundamentalist Catholic and extreme in his views. No descripion of how good a film maker he is or what kind of father he had excuses his reported opinion on Jews. In a similar vein I think he is also a little generous with Roman Polanski and yes life in general would be better served if he did time for his crimes.
All in all an entertaining and informative read well worth the money.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No Endurance needed to read it., 29 Oct 2009
Unlike other reviewers I've not read James' previous biogs/memoirs. However, most people will be aware of his television shows, his novels, poems and literary criticisms.

I really enjoyed the book - really enjoyed it. The accounts of the makings of his early tv programmes are really interesting, as are the tales of him proposing ideas to BBC and ITV. For those interested in the politics of television and how the BBC especially changed its organisation and ethos then the book will be most welcome.

Having said all that, I loved the 'star-stories.' James tells stories about 'celebs', some of whom I find loathsome, which are amsuing and in some cases endearing. One minor criticism would be James' account/analysis of Mel Gibson's rabid anti-semitic rant. I'm not convinced that just because Gibson heard similar stupidity from his father that somehow he is less responsible for what he said. No number of historical films where actors use a variety of languages can excuse the fact that Gibson is probably a fairly unpleasant character. I wonder whether James was blinded by the Australian's reputation?

James description of Freddie Star is fascinating. For those unsure of why there may be ill-feeling on the side of James, go onto YouTube and put the two names in the search box and see what you come up with.

One thing's for sure, I wouldn't fancy juggling with barbed-wire.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking., 18 Mar 2012
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This review is from: The Blaze of Obscurity: Unreliable Memoirs V (Kindle Edition)
Like the other volumes in this series, Clive James has the ability to keep you entertained and at the same time give you pause for thought. For anyone outside the television industry it provides an insight into it's workings as well as it's politics.

I am continually impressed by Mr. James' writting, he has the skill to give you two or three thoughts in the space of as many pages.

I love television and thoroughly enjoyed this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another slice of James, 13 July 2011
Okay - I nail my colours to the mast straight away in saying I am a fan having got copies of all the previous volumes. Is this the best? Simply - no. At times in the second half of the book it as if he is struggling what to write about. This means that he slips into very short "star" anecdotes about guests on his shows. If they were worth including in the book, why not say more? The text is marked by Clive's usual style of writing, i.e. as you read it is almost impossible not to hear his voice in your head. For me this is a good thing. His views on where television might have gone wrong are interesting, although there is less of the "academic" writing that characterised earlier volumes of his autobiographies. I did enjoy the book and would recommend it, especially if you enjoyed his earlier books.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best in the series..., 22 April 2010
Many times, as I was reading this book, I longed to say to Clive James, 'Look, you're among friends - relax!' He's a fine and funny writer, and I've adored his many memoirs over the years, but this one felt flat to me. He seems on edge, constantly anticipating possible attacks and insults and getting his retaliation in first. He's too good for that, and it spoils many anecdotes. He also spends a great deal of time recalling episodes of his Postcard series that I can't even remember seeing, so those passages struck me as rather dull and aimless (maybe other readers and fans loved them!). It gives me no pleasure to be less than enthusiastic, because I really do admire the author hugely, but I wish an editor had encouraged him to enjoy his own achievements a little more, and share that with us, rather than chip away so much at his real and imagined detractors. The lightness of touch and playfulness of previous volumes is far less in evidence here, IMHO, and that's a pity.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Mr James More, 5 Jan 2010
By 
Paul O'Malley (Dublin 20, Ireland) - See all my reviews
This was a great read, I enjoyed it from start to finish, I have enjoyed Clive James work for years, this book is just more of the same great entertainment. My hope is that he keeps writing because I'll keep buying.
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