The Right Coast

March 14, 2005
 
Clive James
By Maimon Schwarzschild

The writer Clive James has a new website, with links to some of his articles and poems. About his website, he says "it is not meant entirely as an ego trip, although I suppose the Pharaohs said the same when they were approving the designs for their individual pyramids." James -- an Australian living in England -- writes with flamboyant style, but is also genuinely smart and thoughtful. A piece about anti-semitism, for example, opens in tones that could only be Clive James':
For the Israelis, anti-Semitism is merely a nightmare. For the Palestinians, it's a catastrophe. If you believe, as I do, that the Palestinians' cause is just, nothing could be more depressing than to hear them spout the very stuff that guarantees they will never get an even break. The mad idea that the Jews have no right to exist is a potent intensifier of the almost equally mad idea that the State of Israel can somehow be eliminated. I say "almost" because a friend of mine in Australia recently presented me with a plausible case that the Middle East would probably be a more peaceful area if the State of Israel had never been founded. Like her argument that the Aborigines would have been a lot happier if the Europeans had never shown up, this contention was hard to rebut, except by rudely pointing out that we were both sitting in an Italian restaurant in Melbourne, history having happened.
The rest of the piece is characteristially sharp, yet sane.

It's true that often Clive James seems to want his every sentence to score with bells ringing and whistles whistling. Then again, a lot of the sentences really are very good. And often -- not always -- his actual ideas are seriously worth thinking about. James isn't easy to pigeon-hole politically, but on the whole I suppose he is left-of-centre. He is fun to read though, whatever your politics, and not just for his style. He is very well known in Britain (and in Australia), but less so in the US. If you haven't discovered him, give him a try -- and welcome him to the blogosphere.