The Old Un remembers the late Clive James's poem about remaindered books
Before his death in December, at the age of 80, Clive James had seen a copy of a new book about him – So Brightly at the Last: Clive James and the Passion for Poetry by Ian Shircore.
What really worried James, says Shircore, wasn’t death, but ‘the dread suspicion that the obituaries, when they eventually come, will fail to give him credit for any of his achievements in the fields of literature, music and cultural criticism’.
The obituaries paid attention, in fact, to all those things. Several of them mentioned one of his best poems, The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered, which appears in full in the new book.
In one bravura passage in the poem, James rejoices in the company the remaindered book will keep ‘in the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs’. Among the other remaindered books he mentions is Pertwee’s Promenades and Pierrots: One Hundred Years of Seaside Entertainment. James continues:
‘His delicate, quivering sensibility is now as one
With Barbara Windsor’s Book of Boobs!,
A volume graced by the descriptive rubric
“My boobs will give everyone hours of fun.” ’
The Old Un is delighted to see that the books actually exist and were both published in 1979. The Pertwee is Bill Pertwee, as in Hodges, the ARP Warden in Dad’s Army. And Barbara Windsor’s Book of Boobs! is available online for only a couple of quid. That’s the Old Un’s birthday present sorted out.