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Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time

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The book extends] from Marx’s own lifetime to those crucial years after Stalin’s death when the dream, somehow deprived of energy by the subtraction of its nightmare element, was already showing signs of coming to an end, in Europe at least. He betrayed his wife by having an eight-year affair with a former model, Leanne Edelsten. When Shaw discovered the affair, in 2012, she threw him out of their Cambridge home, and he moved to a London flat. “I am a reprehensible character,” he told one interviewer. “I deserve everything that has happened to me.”

Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time (Picador Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time (Picador

From Lichtenberg's Sudelbücher to Valéry's notebook (with so many volumes to it that James notes that: "Even in French it has been published only in facsimile") and the coffee-house-writers of Vienna, he seems drawn to the attempts that gather in as much as possible, if not always as neatly as possible.

Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time

In fact, these are often the most fun, because of the connexions he makes -- though he makes connexions everywhere else as well.

Cultural Amnesia : Clive James : Free Download, Borrow, and Cultural Amnesia : Clive James : Free Download, Borrow, and

It would help if the world's large supply of anti-American commentators could decide on which America we are supposed to be in thrall to: the Machiavellian America that can manipulate any country's destiny, or the naïve America that can't find it on the map. While we're waiting for the decision, it might help if we could realize the magnitude of the fix that America got us out of in 1945, and ask ourselves why we expect a people rich and confident enough to do that to be sensitive as well. Power is bound to sound naïve, because it doesn't spot the bitter nuances of feeling helpless. Conspicuously absent: Scandinavia, Africa (Camus is about as far he ventures), and most of Asia (Mao, Nirad C. Chaudhuri, and Isoroku Yamamoto are pretty much the extent of it).It's not quite a 20th century book, though the focus is clearly on that century -- specifically its art and inhumanity. The subject matter of many of the essays, dealing as they do with one or other form of totalitarianism, can be fairly bleak, and one thing a James fan might miss a little is the humour he usually brings to his writing. It's a pity that he seems to have felt it was inappropriate, because when it does emerge, in his lighter moments, the sentences can really come alive. How's this for a description of male porn stars: Clearly James has only chosen subjects that had an impact on him -- there isn't a single piece in the book that reads as if it was written out of an obligation to relevance. That's a plus, as it makes every selection seem vibrant. (...) One of the things that distinguishes Cultural Amnesia from the finger-pointing, eat-your-bean-sprouts tomes about canons and multiculturalism is that James doesn't make you feel guilty, he makes you feel hungry." - Allen Barra, Salon

Book Review: Cultural Amnesia - The New York Times Book Review: Cultural Amnesia - The New York Times

But these Rohrkrepierer-essays are in the tiny minority. I'd love to see a book like this on the life and work of scientists (if I remember correctly, only one of the 'good' essays has to do with science).However, underlying this case study in oppression is the broader theme of the struggle of Western liberal humanism against various forms of totalitarianism, and this usefully explains why among those profiled are Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Jean-Paul Sartre, Sophie Scholl, Leon Trotsky, Mario Vargas Llosa, Czeslaw Milosz, Raymond Aron, Jorge Luis Borges, Robert Brasillach, to name but a few, protagonists on one side or another of this struggle. The humanism in question, though, is a peculiar, idiosyncratic, eccentric version, albeit one explicitly related to “civilization” and civilizing activities such as the arts and humanities. In his introductory chapter, James writes:

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