Falling Towards England by Clive James
'It is something to do not merely with talent but with energy, chutzpah, appetite. James is the funniest man we have...He is amateur of that kind of light touch which depends on the possession of a vocabulary appropriate to a heavy one. Wodehouse had it, so did S.J. Perelman. Mr James has total mastery of his medium, like them.' Anthony Burgess, Observer. 'He is a gas to read...As joke Australian confidence trickster, a sort of rich man's BarryMackenzie, he is a laugh a line.' Anton Waugh, Daily Mail. 'A comic triumph, full of terrific jokes and brilliantly sustained setpieces.' Ian Hamilton, London review of Books. When London began to swing in the early Sixties, Clive James was there. But he was flat broke. When we last met our hero in Unreliable Memoirs, he had set sail from Sydney Harbour on the Bretagne, bound for London, fame and fortune. Idealistic and uncompromising, if short on cash, he planned to engage himself in a low-paying menial job by day and compose poetical masterpieces by night. 'When I got off the ship in Southampton that allegedly mild January of 1962, 'Mr James reports, 'I had nothing to declare at Customs except goose pimples under my white nylon drip-dry shirt.' Scarcely daunted, he moved purposefully 'beyond the Valley of the Kangaroos' (otherwise known as Earls Court) into a bed and breakfast in Swiss Cottage where he thoughtfully practiced The Twist n his room, anticipated the poetical masterpieces and worried a little about his wardrobe. There followed a succession of other digs which included a large paper bag in Tufnell Park and a coal barge in Twickenham. Having promise himself he would never succumb to such stop-gap occupations as publishing or advertising, he was happily unsuccessful in landing a job in either - at least initially. Positions with London Transport and as a wine expert were likewise denied him. But employment in various forms did materialize - from librarianship to light metal work - if only as a temporary submission to capitalist values, naturally, and this nearly kept him in Woodpecker cider. James had been offered a place at Pembroke College, Cambridge, but since he would not qualify for a grant until he had been resident in London for three or more years (mercifully knocked down to two) this poignant and raucous phase of his life went on slightly longer than was beneficial to the social services. Benefits to the author (and to the reader) prove many, however. Already movie mad, he goes opera mad and persists in his efforts to drive young women mad. No one else could have captured the absurdities and sublimities of the early Sixties or the rigours of being an alien in the motherland with such aplomb.