At the Pillars of Hercules
First published to great acclaim in 1979, At the Pillars of Hercules (a title taken from a certain Soho pub) confirmed Clive James’s place as a writer of immense talent. This new paperback edition is as entertaining and elegant as ever. His main topics are contemporary poetry, aesthetics and the theory and practice of criticism, the popular novel, and the literature of modern history and politics. His discussions range from the legacy of Auden and Larkin to Gore Vidal and Lord Longford. His inimitable wit and candour are ever present.
‘The opportunity offered me by the London literary editors – overqualified, confident, and mischievous to a man, especially the women – was too good to miss. Anything I felt like throwing into the review, they would print. Over the top was exactly the way they wanted me to go. As long as they understood it themselves, no reference could be too obscure or allusion too fleeting. In those days the reader, if he encountered something on the page that he could not immediately understand, was still trusted to renew his subscription . . . All you have to remember is that you’re not the whole show. I sometimes still had trouble remembering that, but I like to think, looking back, that solipsism made my admiration for others seem the more selfless – with the concomitant benefit that I could do a better hatchet job without being thought of as having laid claim to a monopoly of objective truth’ Clive James, from the introduction of At the Pillars of Hercules