Monday, July 6, 2009

CULTURAL AMNESIA by Clive James

This could have been a great book if it had been written by someone other than Clive James, a critic who couldn't love himself more if he bent over and gave himself a blowjob. I looked forward to reading Cultural Amnesia, I opened it with an open mind, and I was impressed when Clive pulled off an amazing metaphor in his introduction: "...the written version of Japanese is the kind of language that you can study hard for five years and yet can't neglect for a week without its leaving you like a flock of birds." That's wonderful, nearly perfect. It's too bad that the rest of the book is a shrill, screeching symphony of axe-grinding. There are a few good things here (the piece on Dick Cavett, for example), but they are too few to make this book worth the price of admission. And James is too proud of his own ignorance (of critical theory, for example) to even begin to engage with the works of Walter Benjamin or Sartre, two of his betes noires. The best review of Cultural Amnesia is a few words from a wiseguy: Forget about it.

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