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.
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.
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.