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8 May 1986
... Triangular Macquarie Place, up from the Quay, Is half rain forest, half a sculpture park Where can be found – hemmed in by palms and ferns, Trees touching overhead – the Obelisk From which, one learns, All Public Roads are Measured Leading to the Interior of the Colony. Skyscraper cliffs keep this green garden dark. The Obelisk is sandstone. Thomas Mort Is also present, bronze on a tall plinth – His plain Victorian three-piece suit bulks large, Befitting Sydney’s first successful exporter Of refrigerated foods – while, lower down This plush declivity, one finds a bubbler Superfluously shaded by a small But intricate gun-metal baldacchino, Sure-footed as a Donatello font ...
22 May 1980
Unreliable Memoirs 
by Clive James.
Cape, 171 pp., £5.50, May 1980, 0 224 01825 6
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... the boundaries of suburban settlement. This was surely one of the most interesting programmes that Clive James could have seen in the course of his duties as the Observer’s television critic, but he did not have much to say about it on the Sunday in question, preferring – with his usual outrageous critical severity – to lay into Lindsay Anderson for ...
24 January 1980
... supply of mental giants. A Goethe now would lack words to loathe Newton. It’s forty years since James Joyce named the quark. Now nobody’s nonplussed to hear light rays Get sucked down holes so fast they show up dark. Nor would the converse of that news amaze. It all gets out of reach as it grows clear. What we once failed to grasp but still were thrilled ...
4 December 1980
... ceased – And that’s a fact as certain as my name’s (This line I’ll have to pad a bit) ...
21 August 1980
... with acknowledgments to Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale, authors of ‘Misia’ ‘I’ve left that great page blank,’ said Mallarmé When asked why he’d not written of his boat. There are such things as mean too much to say. You have to let it drift, to let it float. The man who did the asking was Manet, Whose niece’s journal treasures the reply ...

Jet-Lag in Tokyo

Clive James

21 May 1987
... Flat feet kept Einstein out of the army. The Emperor’s horse considers its position. In Akasaka men sit down and weep Because the night must end. At Chez Oz I discussed my old friend’s sex change With a lovely woman who, I later learned, Had also had one. The second movement Of the Mahler Seventh on my Boodo Kahn Above the North Pole spoke to me like you ...

Lock Me Away

Clive James

22 September 2005
... In the NHS psychiatric test For classifying the mentally ill You have to spell ‘world’ backwards. Since I heard this, I can’t stop doing it. The first time I tried pronouncing the results I got a sudden flaring picture Of Danny La Rue in short pants With his mouth full of marshmallows. He was giving his initial and surname To a new schoolteacher ...
5 July 1984
... My gesture towards Finnegans Wake is deliberate. Ronald Bush, T. S. Eliot: A Study in Character and Style The gesture towards Finnegans Wake was deliberate. It was not accidental. Years of training went into the gesture, As W.C. Fields would practise a juggling routine Until his eczema-prone hands bled in their kid gloves; As Douglas Fairbanks Sr trimmed the legs of a table Until, without apparent effort and from a standing start, He could jump up onto it backwards; Or as Gene Kelly danced an entire tracking shot over and over Until the final knee-slide ended exactly in focus, Loafers tucked pigeon-toed behind him, Perfect smile exultant, Hands thrown open saying ‘How about that?’ The gesture towards Finnegans Wake was deliberate ...
18 February 1988
... Last night the sea dreamed it was Greta Scacchi. It wakes unruffled, lustrous, feeling sweet – Not one breath of scandal has ever touched it. At a higher level, the rain has too much power. Grim clouds conspire to bring about its downfall. The squeeze is on, there is bound to be a shake-out. The smug sea and the sky that will soon go bust Look like antagonists, but don’t be fooled: They understand each other very well ...
6 September 1984
... Hostathion contains Triazophos, Controls seed weevil, pea moth, carrot fly. Of pesticides Hostathion is the boss. Pests take one sip, kick up their heels and die. They never find out what Hostathion is. Triazophos remains the merest word, Though partly echoed by the acrid fizz Which suddenly grows too loud to be heard. Hostathion was once Achilles’ friend, Staunch at his elbow before Ilios, But now that name brings pea moth a quick end Assisted by the cruel Triazophos ...
2 September 1982
... Admirers of Godfrey Smith’s ‘Sunday Times’ column, one of whose principal concerns is the various promotional free meals to which he is invited, were not surprised to learn, from a recent feature article by him in the same newspaper, that lunch is his idea of heaven. When Godfrey Smith goes up to Heaven He’ll see more cream teas than in Devon And angels in McDonald’s hats Ladling chips from golden vats ...
19 February 1987
... Go back to the opal sunset, where the wine Costs peanuts, and the avocado mousse Is thick and strong as cream from a jade cow. Before the passionfruit shrinks on the vine Go back to where the heat turns your limbs loose. You’ve worked your heart out and need no excuse. Knock out your too-tall tent-pegs and go now. It’s England, April, and it’s pissing down, So realise your assets and go back To the opal sunset ...
31 October 2002
... Antony and Cleopatra swam at Mersa Matruh In the clear blue shallows. Imagine the clean sand, the absence of litter – No plastic bottles or scraps of styrofoam packing, No jetsam at all except the occasional corpse Of a used slave tossed off a galley – And the shrieks of the dancing Queen as the hero splashed her While her cheer-squad of ladies-in-waiting giggled on cue, The eunuchs holding the towels ...
3 May 1984
... Female desire aims to subdue, overcome and pacify the unbridled ambition of the phallus. Roger Scruton The unbridled phallus of the philosopher Was seen last week galloping across the South Downs, Flame spurting from its flared nostril. The phallus being a horse in which Both mane and tail are bunched together at the back end, This unharnessed piece of horseflesh was of necessity unable To accompany with a display of shaken neck-hair The tossing of its head, But the tossing of its head was tremendous nevertheless, Like that of Bucephalus, the steed of Alexander ...
2 June 1983
... The book of my enemy has been remaindered And I am pleased. In vast quantities it has been remaindered. Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized And sits in piles in a police warehouse, My enemy’s much-praised effort sits in piles In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs. Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles One passes down reflecting on life’s vanities, Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews Lavished to no avail upon one’s enemy’s book – For behold, here is that book Among these ranks and banks of duds, These ponderous and seemingly irreducible cairns Of complete stiffs ...

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