Clive James is known to many for his TV work in the 80s and 90s. Yet the great Antipodean is far more than an amusing presenter with a winning televisual manner and slyly comic delivery.
Novelist, poet, lyricist and essayist, Clive James is a polyglot and highly regarded literary critic. Lest anyone doubt that he has interests beyond the popular culture he so affectionately mocked on the box, his last publication was the 896 page Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of my Time. This aphoristic treatment in A to Z form of the lives of some of the greatest thinkers, writers and musicians of the twentieth century, is witty and provocative, an encyclopedia of the imaginative life. James's great talent is to combine a fierce intellect with a brilliant wit, undercutting his own serious concerns with a natural levity. He is a marvellous writer, intriguing, elegant, to the point, erudite, always funny and possessed of an original and enjoyably self-satisfied intelligence.
CliveJames.com is a generous and wonderful delight: this is the future for cultural multi-media websites. The material so lovingly organised and with such a spirit of enthusiasm for the possibilities of art and thought, that it ought to be a spur to an artistic renaissance on the internet.
"I was building a memorial to myself," James wrote in The Times last year, "not a very charming idea even when the pharaohs did it. Luckily I soon realised that the project might be more useful if I included the work of other people."
So James showcases the writing, photography, short films, video art, cartoons, sculpture, painting and poetry of those artists he admires and, in the process, makes of his site museum, literary salon and library.
TEXT, AUDIO, VIDEO
Clivejames.com is beautifully designed and well organised. In Text you'll find many of James's essays, articles and lectures, in addition to writing by guest authors such as Michael Frayn and Peter Bogdanovich. In Audio there are fascinating dialogues with Richard Dawkins and Michael Burleigh, as well as an archive of recordings for Radio 4's A Point of View.
In alliance with Sky Arts and timesonline, James has produced more than 25 interviews in the Talking in the Library series over the last few years. The archive is a treasurebox of wit and insight, featuring frank and relaxed conversations with the likes of Jonathan Miller, Martin Amis and Terry Gilliam. These are not the celebrity marketing occasions that Michael Parkinson so excelled at, but unguarded chinwags on all manner of subjects, especially those that do not involve the flogging of a product.
For those of you wondering about how the site was put together, go to About where you can read web designer John Bryan on his building of it all.