Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The shadow of barbarism

On Clive James's essays

Halfway through this new collection of essays, in a piece about A.D. Hope, Clive James finds himself obliged to deal with an academic who has attempted to make sense of Hope’s notebooks using a high-falutin theoretical concept known as the “rhizome”. Here is part of James’s rejoinder:

The word “rhizome” has an affinitive similarity to the word “rissole”, the classic Australian term, drawn from the culinary arts, for something being reduced to a wreck. (Used as a noun, the word “rissole” denotes a kind of proto-hamburger, but used as a verb—as in “Strewth, we’ve rissoled the Holden”—the same word means that the machinery has ceased to work.)

As excellent as this sort of thing is, we should always remember that the funny stuff isn’t what Clive James does instead of the serious stuff. It’s what he does on top of the serious stuff ... [read more]