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Some would say that Clive James has written his latest book the easy way: collate the scripts he's written for his presentations on BBC Radio 4's A Point Of View, add postscripts to clarify or revise his current thinking on these topics, and top & tail with an introduction and conclusion. You can see their point, if you're thinking about the enormous amount of work he must have put into the monumental (and indispensable) Cultural Amnesia but in fact, his modus operandi here is only a slight variation on the way he's assembled his other books (most recently The Revolt of the Pendulum) as collections of essays and reviews. These pieces were written to be read aloud, although they work just as well on the page - in fact, speaking personally as one who loves James's writing but is less enamoured of his speaking voice, they're even better in that form.

Unlike his other collections, in which his erudition is given free rein, his subjects here are more everyday: wheelie bins, Harry Potter, bicycling and giving up smoking. A lot of them have (what were) current events as their starting point: MP's fiddled expenses, the preparations for the London Olympics, Prince Harry in Afghanistan. And some of them are his personal musings on disparate topics, the most remarkable piece being a thoughtful discussion about the character of Jesus (James does not describe himself as a Christian). One of his recurring themes is his personal inadequacy when it comes to organization or practical matters, especially - he says - in the eyes of his family: the standout contribution here is a riff on how bad he is at wrapping Christmas presents, and what that means for the gifts he gives. I found pieces like this, which include glimpses of his personal life, to be most touching in light of his current circumstances: just after broadcasting the final talk at the end of 2009, he was diagnosed with the first in a series of debilitating and serious illnesses, and it's impossible to read this collection without contemplating a day when there'll be no more to come.

So perhaps assembling this book the easy way was the right thing to do (although, on the other hand, he's just brought out a translation of The Divine Comedy which he says is the result of over forty years' work). An American commentator has said recently "When England loses Clive James, it'll be as if a plane has crashed with five or six of its best writers on board". This collection, easy to read, stimulating in opinion (even when it appears wrong-headed, such as his seemingly unjustified disbelief in man-made climate change) and sparkling with his characteristic literal tricks [e.g. "Like anyone in the vicinity of the City Hall building at any time, I am always on the lookout for something pleasant to look at instead. Ken Livingstone works in City Hall and I would almost rather look at him than look at his building." (p73)], provides further evidence for that generous tribute.
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on 29 January 2012
When you write something that expresses a point of view you believe in, and you know full well it may not be all that popular, non-PC or politically contentious, there are certain journalists and broadcasters from whom it is well worth learning. Clive James is one of them, and in his book 'A Point of View' he shows you how to do it with grace, style and wit, while delivering a well aimed punch.

However, for me he has one over-riding advantage when compared to say, Christopher Hitchens. In short, I can hear Clive James's voice in my mind saying the words as I read them, and that makes every word of his articles flow beautifully to their inevitable conclusion. However, having expressed his point of view in one of the many articles, what makes the book even more engaging is to then read what James feels about his particular subject or opinion now, with the benefit of hindsight. That addition is a masterstroke, as James can either turn up the volume, or row back a little in the light of subsequent events, and allow you as the reader to re-consider as well.

I've always enjoyed James's way of talking with those antipodean intonations and nuances, without realising how deeply he feels about all sorts of subjects until I heard him on Radio 4. The book is a gem and one of the most engaging and mind-broadening books you'll ever read. And for that, Mr James, we should all be eternally thankful.
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on 20 September 2015
The short essays in this book are a joy. Clive James'unique voice comes through clearly and is full if his often tongue in cheek views on life and the world are still full of every human emotion they summon up. I even remember some of these from heaving heard them on the radio - that is how powerful is the impression he makes on people who love language and debate. He is one of the greats of writing and of broadcasting. I am such a fan! Just wonderful stuff Laugh and cry at will.
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on 10 April 2013
The book consists of the scripts for Clive James's point of view broadcasts with some additional comments. I only managed to listen to some of the broadcasts and although his website does offer the chance to hear them all. Reading the scripts adds another dimension and adds to my appreciation of the many witty observations they contain. Take care if on public transport, I found it impossible not to burst out laughing as I read this.
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on 24 February 2015
If you missed these essays when they were broadcast, this is the perfect opportunity to catch up. The book includes the author's comments on the reaction that he received to the original broadcasts.
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on 22 May 2015
I have been reading Clive James for the best part of 30 years. He is the finest essay writer we have in the English language, and these broadcasts, in essay form, show he's still the master.
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on 28 August 2016
There are flashes of his trademark wit and some real gems. However be prepared for a less fun ride than you would expect. He is, to my mind, far too obsessed with making points about certain bugbears of his- particularly climate change- which do render him guilty of grumpy status! However he can as always be extremely interesting.
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on 19 September 2015
We were lucky that Clive James turned his talents to TV reviews. Even if you can't remember the programme he is writing about his points are still relevant and interesting. I defy anyone to read his Wimbledon or Olympic reviews with anything approaching a straight face. A wonderful author.
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on 21 September 2015
Funny AND thought provoking. That's got to be good. Occasionally can't quite see the point he is trying to make but the prose flows very well and makes for easy reading. The postscripts are very welcome and add further food for tthought.
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A few years ago I found a book called A Point of View, of Lisa Jardine's radio essays, which I thoroughly enjoyed. When I saw a book with the same title, by Clive James, I cheered. I had last read Clive James some twenty years ago when I became a fan of his opinionated travel writing and television reviews.

I have to say I did not like the points of view of Clive James as much as I did the points of view of Lisa Jardine. Jardine, a historian, spent her ten minute radio essays on a wide variety of topics, from a visit to the Tate Modern to Christmas dinner to Tudor underwear and the design of tea kettles. The essays were conversational and informative. By contrast, Clive James lectures, harangues and rides his hobby horse round and round.

In the first third of the book, James is curmudgeonly as he discusses swearing on TV, black role models (such as pre-scandal Tiger Woods), and Harry Potter. He enters true geezer territory though, when he dismisses rap music as a passing fad. I am no fan of rap either, but as rap has been around for at least 25 years now, you have to admit it's more than a fad.

In the rest of the book, James gets more serious and talks about global warming repeatedly. He is, he says, a global warming (or climate change, if you prefer) skeptic. He's way beyond skepticism. He is convinced that it is a hoax perpetrated on the public by ... well, that part isn't clear. James clearly believes that global warming, if it exists at all, is not caused by humans. Whether he believes it or not is of little concern to me - James is a media and literary critic, a memoirist, a poet, an essayist, a television presenter, but not a scientist.

His opinions on a wide range of subjects, including subjects he is not an expert in, could very well be interesting, entertaining, enlightening. Instead, he returns again and again to climate change, and also for some reason, having to sort the trash into different bins for recycling. This seems to be a great irritant to him, or maybe it was a running joke that was communicated better with a tone of voice than in print.

James, in his eighties and in precarious health, has deeper thoughts on his mind than he did in the old days when he wrote about television shows and travels around the world. I know that many people enjoyed his radio broadcasts and will like the book as well. It's just not my cup of tea.
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