Clive James: ‘The most overrated books almost all emerged from a single genre – magic realism’


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The author, critic and poet on reading Biggles as a child and his admiration for Philip Larkin

The book I am currently reading
Mostly at this stage I am rereading myself, and finding something marvellous on every page. I’ve just received the advance copies of my new book about Philip Larkin, called Somewhere Becoming Rain. Holding it up to be observed at various angles, I gloat audibly. On a less self-involved note, I’ve just read Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine. Her clarity reminds me of Olivia Manning.

The book that changed my life
Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. I can still quote whole scenes from it. I read it in my early 20s, still a bit young to have fully understood that a book can be simultaneously entertaining and serious. Abruptly I realised that it could be a possible aim, for a writer, to raise a serious point and a laugh along with it.

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