Cultural Amnesia

  • by Clive James
  • Narrated by Clive James
  • 6 hrs and 20 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

"In this book can be heard the merest edge of an enormous conversation. As they never were in life, we can imagine the speakers all gathered in some vast room, wearing name tags in case they don't recognize each other (although some recognize each other all too well, and avoid contact)."My heroes and heroines are here. The reader will recognize some of their names, while other names will be more obscure. My intellectual betes noires are here too, and the same division might apply." An almanac combining a comprehensive survey of modern culture with an annotated index of who-was-who and what-was-what, Cultural Amnesia is Clive James' unique take on the places and the faces that shaped the 20th century. From Anna Akhmatova to Stefan Zweig, via Charles de Gaulle, Hitler, Thomas Mann and Charlie Chaplin, this varied and unfailingly absorbing book is both story and history, both public memoir and personal record - and provides an essential field-guide to the vast movements of taste, intellect, politics, and delusion that helped to prepare the times we live in now.

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What the Critics Say

"Clever, and funny....a wonderful book for a long afternoon in a left-bank cafe, or a transatlantic plane ride." (The Observer)
"On virtually every page, there is an arresting sentence, witty or profound." (Mail on Sunday)
"It's clever, contentious and funny (like its author). His scope is impressive." (Guardian)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Another great clearing in the jungle from CJ

Cultural Amnesia is a ?tour de force? in writing terms but more like a ?tour de France? when reading, especially if you try to do the thing in one go. Using Wikipedia as a study aid I felt like I was in the ring with Sonny Liston who by chapter three had me on the canvas. In one of his earlier books, Fame in the 20th century, Clive James gave an excellent outline of how the famous shaped our world. In Cultural Amnesia he has broadened and deepened these ideas. I found it is accessible only in that he uses words I understand but the concepts saw me using a whiteboard and ?post it? notes. His thoughts criss-cross time and space giving a glimpse of James?s lifetimes reading and reasoning. This can be disconcerting if like me you are thinly read and prone to prejudice. However it is so worth persevering as there is much to learn, many laughs and a constant striving for context. In ?Fame? James ends by making the point that we need these people as we need a map, to help find our way, yet all maps are an over simplification. I would argue that we need Clive himself to help us find our way as Cultural Amnesia changes that scale from glimpse to insight. I have listened to and read the book and am changed for the experience. Had there been a T Shirt I?d be wearing it.
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- Matt

excellent narration, good abridgement

I find Clive James' books quite difficult to read. His knowledge is so great and his reading so wide that I think he finds it difficult to judge what to leave out - and hence it is very hard to follow his train of thought as he jumps all over the place, throwing out, as it were, widely drawn allusions and references.

However, when he reads his own stuff, it becomes much clearer to me - dont ask me why. He has an interesting voice, a good conversational style of delivery and his dry humour keeps coming through. It is much easier to get the point.

I agree with the previous reviewer, though, that this is a book to dip into rather than read all the way through. I listened to it over a few weeks a section at a time but you are rather bound by the order of the book in an audio version (defined break points would have made this easier). Best thing is to have the book and the audio - which is the course I've followed.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the audiobook - and it interested me enough to buy the written version which is good stuff too.
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- Tom

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-04-2008
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan Publishers Ltd.