Comfort in Clive
In "Cultural Amnesia," Clive James profiles perhaps a hundred people. Some (Hitler and Mao) are world-historical figures, some generally known but not for having stood astride the world (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, W.C. Fields), and some pulled out of obscurity, many of these last remarkable writers and intellectuals who died, directly or indirectly, at the hands of the great tyrants of the 20th century.
And Clive has a point of view, an unabashed one, about all of them. He is able to put them in perspective. And thus he soothes the feeling, natural to us of a certain age, that everything that defined our culture will die with us. Someone said that when one is contemplating his last days, it is not fear of losing the future that is psychologically disabling so much as fear of losing the past. Clive provides hope that there will be archeologists to examine and to catalog everything that will be plowed under, perhaps lending a little more meaning to what we have been through.
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