Broadcaster, critic, poet, TV presenter and prolific author – Clive James cheerfully criss-crossed the boundaries between high and lowbrow.
He was as much at home hosting a Shakespeare documentary as he was at fronting a programme showing people suffering indignities on Japanese TV.
His sardonic tones graced a host of TV documentaries in which he brought his own acute observations to bear on a wide variety of subjects.
A journalist on The Sydney Morning Herald once wrote: “His gift and lasting contribution has been to recognise that mass appeal does not translate into lack of substance.” . .
. . . As New Republic put it in 2010, attempting to explain Clive’s significance to American readers:
But try, if you will, to imagine that David Letterman also wrote long, charming critical essays for The New York Review, published more than 30 books, issued memoirs that moved readers the way Frank McCourt’s do, knew seven or eight foreign languages, and composed poems that were printed in The New Yorker, and you are getting close.
When England loses Clive James, it will be as if a plane had crashed with five or six of its best writers on board.
A devoted, dear and longtime friend of Quadrant, Clive’s wit and insight pepper our archives. Below, a sampling of the many reasons the world is today so much poorer for his passing. But first, as a reminder that five decades’ residence in England had not in the least thinned or in any way diminished the Australia that was in his blood, an expat’s memory . .
His writing survives him at clivejames.com