Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The digested read

(John Crace's feature at the Guardian) is funniest when he's taking down someone impossibly and irrefutably lively or energetic; I find it more discouraging (though sometimes also very funny in a scathing way) when he decimates minor literary fiction, but he's amazing on celebrity autobiographies and it's also always good when he does popular writers whose books delightfully already approach self-parody (Jilly Cooper, Dick Francis). Here's he's done a very good one on Clive James's latest volume of autobiography (digested read as apt criticism: I feel certain now that the book really is very much like this...):

My early reviews for the Times Literary Supplement were much improved by the keen eye of its editor, Ian Hamilton. His prose was a model of sardonic limpidity and he had an unerring eye for the slipshod simile and the overblown cadence. He took an inky scalpel to my pieces, shaving and sponging them of their indignities, and, after a lengthy process of excision and emendation, they would appear in print. It is a huge loss that he never got to read this book before you did.

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