Clive James, the Australian writer and broadcaster known around the world for his dry wit, has died at the age of 80.
Diagnosed with leukaemia in 2010, the author and critic had movingly written about his terminal illness during the final years of his life.
Born Vivian James in 1939, he moved to England in 1961 and rose to prominence as a literary critic and TV columnist.
He went on to deliver wry commentary on international programming in such shows as Clive James On Television.
The show saw him introduce amusing and off-beat TV clips from around the world, most famously from Japanese game show Endurance.
According to a statement from his agents, he died at home in Cambridge on Sunday. A private funeral was held on Wednesday in the chapel at Pembroke College.
“Clive died almost 10 years after his first terminal diagnosis, and one month after he laid down his pen for the last time,” the statement read.
Excerpts from Clive James’ reading of “The River in the Sky” [links added]:
In ancient days
Men in my job prepared for endless travel
Across the sea of stars, where Pharaoh sailed
To immortality, but now we know
This is no journey. A long, aching pause
Is all the voyage there will ever be.
…… Books are the anchors
Left by the ships that rot away. The mud
The anchors lie in is one’s recollection
Of what life was, and never, late or soon,
Will be again.
Plugged into YouTube’s vast cosmopolis,
We are in Sweden, and Bill Evans plays
“ ’Round Midnight,” Monk’s most elemental thing:
Most beautiful and most bewildering
Because it builds a framework out of freedom.
At the Cambridge Union once, I watched Monk play
That song in his sharp hat and limp goatee
As if the fact that he himself composed it
Back in the day
Merely insured he would forget it slowly,
Instead of straightaway, like where he was.
His eyeballs like hot coals, he jabbed and growled,
At one stage failing to locate the keyboard
Completely. But I walked to the Blue Boar
Beside Tom Weiskel to pay awestruck homage.
Monk thought we were the cops. He disappeared.
Only a few years later, Weiskel, too,
Went missing. Back in the States, majestic
In his tenure, he was skating with his daughter
On a frozen lake. She went through the thin ice
And he died diving for her. So now I
Am the only one of those three men alive.
Let’s call it four. George Russell loved that number.
He heard the sparseness in the classic tones,
Though his idea of swing was Hindemith.
My Americans in Cambridge
Had names from comic books—
Star Lawrence, Mike Smith, Pete Mazan,
Steve Greenblatt, and Tom Weiskel
The skis were long in those days
And Mike Smith’s, made of steel,
Would clatter on the moguls
Of Zurs am Alberg
As he straight-lined a whole hill.
None of them liked the war
But you couldn’t see them losing
Back teaching in the States,
Weiskel, to save his daughter,
Didn’t stop to take his skates off
Before he went in to find her
And they both died in the cold
He’d understand, if ever I should see him
In the halls of Dis,
I just about put up with the idea
Of his death, but not hers.
But he won’t need telling that,
Today, in this long winter ….
[excerpted from Clive James latest book: “The River in the Sky.”]