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The essence of Cliveishness

Clive James's compendium of short essays shows him at his most democratic, irreverent and dazzling. Even the flaws seem to be there for a purpose—to make the reader feel slightly less ignorant

Cultural Amnesia, by Clive James (Picador, £25)

Halfway through this monumental catalogue raisonné of the writings in Clive James’s life, and library, I inadvertently broke protocol and read a chunk of what another reviewer had said about it. In a spasm of reheated little Englandism, AN Wilson cosied up to his public by assuring them that he had never heard of Witold Gombrowicz, who, he jeered, sounded fictional. Letting philistines off the hook of their monoglot complacency is a speciality of parochial critics, from FR Leavis to Kingsley Amis and on down. No surprise to discover that Wilson regarded as…

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