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Among the soho boozers,
This review is from: North Face of Soho: Unreliable Memoirs Volume IV: vol. 4 (Hardcover)
There is much to admire in Clive James's writing: erudition, compact phrasing and a discursive style that can engage a reader's interest in often obscure topics. Unfortunately, the fourth instalment of memoirs takes all these elements and regurgitates them into accidental self-parody.
The problem that the author has is that the launching of his undeniably successful media career is likely to be of far less interest to his readers than it so obviously is to himself. The first three books derived their humour from the pitfalls of growing up in the suburbs and overcoming the gaucheness and pretensions of early adulthood, topics we can all relate to in some way.
The current book deals at inordinate length with the details of freelance contracts, negotiating a salary increase at the Observer and the rather inane accoutrements of the jobbing journalist - which doubtless induces a shiver of recognition in struggling freelancers but remains superfluous in terms of riveting biography. It is hard to see how we are supposed to interpret these vignettes apart from the fact that they are entirely self-congratulatory.
The same goes for the long passages about having lunch with Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis. Despite the fact that Christopher Hitchens has had an awful lot of lunches with many people of interest, the buyers of this book are unlikely to be among them. The most revealingly comment on the "London Literary Society" lunch club, as Mr James dubs them, is that few, if any of them, have produced anything of note in years and Christopher Hitchens has become the cell block punk for the neo-conservatives in Washington.
There is enough in the book to sustain the read, but be prepared for the type of belaboured puns, metaphors and similies that bear all the hallmarks of a once-good writer in terminal decline. The recent Robert Hughes autobiography, an Australian contemporary and also part of the 1960's Kangeroo valley in London, shows a much better grasp of factual storytelling.