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Unreliable Memoirs : Autobiography - Clive James

Unreliable Memoirs



Published: November 2009
Ships: 10 to 14 business days
10 to 14 business days
RRP $26.99

Booktopia Comments

John Carey, chief book reviewer for the London Sunday Times, who knows a thing or two about these matters, named Unreliable Memoirs, as one of the 20th century’s most enjoyable reads.

I heartily agree. This book will have you laughing out aloud, which is great, but will also get you thinking about your own life, encouraging you to take things less seriously, and, as a bonus, Clive James' revelations about his own life will remain with you forever, giving you something to chuckle about in the face of life's small dangers...

Book Description

The first volume of Clive James's autobiography.

'I was born in 1939. The other big event of that year was the outbreak of the Second World War, but for the moment, that did not affect me.'

In the first instalment of Clive James's memoirs, we meet the young Clive, dressed in short trousers, and wrestling with the demands of school, various relatives and the occasional snake, in the suburbs of post-war Sydney. His adventures are hilarious, his recounting of them even more so, in this - the book that started it all...

'You can't put it down once started. Its addictive powers stun all normal, decent resistance within seconds. Not to be missed' Sunday Times

"All that really needs to be said to recommend Unreliable Memoirs is that James writes exactly as he talks, which is all his millions of fans could wish" Evening Standard

About the Author

Clive James is the author of more than thirty books. As well as his memoirs, he has published essays, literary and television criticism, travel writing, verse and novels. As a television performer he has appeared regularly for both the BBC and ITV, most notably as writer and presenter of the Postcard series of travel documentaries. He helped to found the independent television production company Watchmaker and the Internet enterprise Welcome Stranger, one of whose offshoots is a multimedia personal website, www.clivejames.com. In 1992 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia and in 2003 he was awarded the Philip Hodgins memorial medal for literature.


by PowerReviews
Unreliable Memoirs

(based on 2 reviews)

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I read this book over 20 years ago

By luminair

from Sydney

About Me Casual Reader


  • Deserves Multiple Readings
  • Easy To Understand
  • Informative
  • Inspirational
  • Relevant
  • Very funny
  • Well Written


  • NONE

Best Uses

  • Gift
  • Older Readers
  • Travel Reading

Comments about Unreliable Memoirs:

I read this book a long time ago and have never forgotten it because it was such a good read; and the warning about not reading in public etc was true. I found myself almost in hysterical stitches on the back of a bus one day while reading this. I am now buying another copy of it since the original copy I read was a library copy and want to read this again, as well as buy another copy as a gift.

Comment on this review


Loads of laughs

By Joybell

from Melbourne Australi

About Me Everyday Reader

Verified Buyer


  • Deserves Multiple Readings


    Best Uses

    • Older Readers

    Comments about Unreliable Memoirs:

    Older readers can relate to a lot of things in their childhood

    Comment on this review

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    "A huge best seller in England," we're told - which must mean either that critic James (First Reactions, p. 956) is a media celebrity over there or that the un-prettified adolescent-memoir genre (raunchy, self-deprecating) is still something of a novelty to the English. In any case, US readers - no strangers to the masturbation/ acne/inferiority-complex routine - will still find some engaging quirks in these crisp, smartsy recollections of growing-up in Sydney, Australia. Born in 1939, James had an absent father (a POW) and then none at all (a plane crash when James was five). The result was "an absurdly carefree upbringing" by his nervous, poor mother: pre-teen James was a "force of destruction" - wrecking the neighbors' flowers, knocking out street-lights, ineptly wearing a homemade mask-and-cape as junior gang-leader ("Only lack of opportunity saved us from outright delinquency"). Then, however, came puberty and more social activities: the Cubs, a mutual-masturbation phase ("I was queer as a coot"), agonies as a slow-developer in high school ("you can die of envy for cratered faces weeping with yellow pus"), panic over penis size ("In a class full of cock-watchers, I had to keep something between my shrinking twig and a hundred prying eyes"), success as the class clown, and the onset of heterosexual horniness. Fairly diverting material - but James self-indulgently provides more detail than most readers will want: e.g., on lapses in hygiene ("the snot supply," accidental bowel movements). And only the final chapters - about his gawky college awakening to literature and art ("I was not yet fully divested of the impression that E.M. Forster's principal creation had been Horatio Hornblower") - are consistently fresh and funny. Intermittent amusement, then, as tedium and arch self-regard alternate with genuine insights and vividly-evoked youthful stumblings. (Kirkus Reviews)

    ISBN: 9780330264631
    ISBN-10: 033026463X
    Series: Unreliable Memoirs Ser.
    Audience: General
    Format: Paperback
    Language: English
    Number Of Pages: 176
    Published: November 2009
    Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 13.0  x 1.3
    Weight (kg): 0.15

    Clive James

    Clive James is the author of more than thirty books. As well as essays, he has published collections of literary and television criticism, travel writing, verse and novels, plus five volumes of autobiography. As a television performer he appeared regularly for both the BBC and ITV. In 1992 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia and in 2003 he was awarded the Philip Hodgins memorial medal for literature. Cultural Amnesia was a New York Times Notable Book.

    Visit Clive James's Booktopia Author Page