As of This Writing

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

As of This Writing: The Essential Essays, 1968-2002 is yet another anthology of characteristically wide-ranging and tart essays from the always provocative Clive James, a volume to be placed on the shelf alongside Reliable Essays (2001), The Metropolitan Critic (1974), and ten other compilations of his literary journalism. For many readers, there really cannot be too many of these volumes to choose from; for them, James is a writer who can be positively addictive, one whose instantly recognizable style, voice, and point of view are almost impossible to resist. Australian-born, British-educated, he writes with an easy wit, with enormous humor, and great erudition lightly worn; moreover, he writes as an outsider, a fact he makes much of in the forward to this work. Unlike a number of his famous contemporaries (Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens come to mind), James has chosen to remain in England, ignoring the lure of America and American dollars, refusing the chance to be at what can seem like the center of the action. He works best, he says, on the margins, where his perspective is less likely to be distorted and his critical sensibility more likely to flourish. Flourish it certainly does in these incandescent essays that range from poetry and fiction to cultural figures and the visual arts, from the death of W. H. Auden to the life of Primo Levi, from the legacy of Orson Welles to the lyric, soulful lunacy of Federico Fellini.


(The entire section is 478 words.)