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As good as Heaney

It's easy to be blinded by the dazzle of Clive James's many talents. Yet his most enduring claim to greatness is not his novels, satire or journalism, but his exquisite essays and poems

By Julian Gough   January 2009

The Book of My Enemy: Collected Verse 1958-2003 by Clive James (Picador, £8.99)

Angels Over Elsinore: Collected Verse 2003-2008 by Clive James (Picador, £14.99)

I’ve been reading Clive James since I was in short pants and he was in flares. Back then, it was impossible to predict where he would end up, because he was shooting off in all directions at once like a burning box of fireworks. What couldn’t he do?

From 1972 to 1976, James’s Observer television columns used riveting language to nail down the ephemera of an entire culture as it moved into a democratic age. It…

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