From the Land of Shadows

Clive James

08 October 2015
288 pages


His third book of cultural criticism, From the Land of Shadows sees essayist, critic and poet Clive James at his erudite, enlightening best.

'[T]he lasting impression is of our critic's truly amazing breadth of reference' – Times Literary Supplement

Collecting his work from the late 1970s and into the early 1980s, this book contains engaging, informed discussions of such writers as Bernard Levin, Gore Vidal, John le Carré, Anthony Burgess, Evelyn Waugh, Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, W. H. Auden and Vladimir Nabokov.

The four sections – In a Free Society; Fact Meets Fiction; Poetry, Criticism & Aesthetics, and The Giant in the East – together provide a lively image of literature in the mid-to-late twentieth century. The last section concerns Russian literature, the pieces written during the days of the Soviet Union and all the more fascinating for this context.

'"Literature"', [James] writes, "says most things itself, when it is allowed to." Criticism like this expands that allowance and adds to its pleasure' – Observer

Clive James (1939–2019) was a broadcaster, critic, poet, memoirist and novelist. His much-loved, influential and hilarious television criticism is available both in individual volumes and collected in Clive James On Television. His encyclopaedic study of culture and politics in the twentieth century, Cultural Amnesia, remains perhaps the definitive embodiment of his wide-ranging talents as a critic.

Praise for Clive James:

'The perfect critic' – A.O. Scott, New York Times

'There can't be many writers of my generation who haven't been heavily influenced by Clive James' – Charlie Brooker

'A wonderfully witty and intelligent writer' – Verity Lambert

Delightful writing. One of the liveliest writers on the scene.
His outstanding talent is as a cicerone, guiding the ignorant traveller with patience, knowledge and wit round some favourite literary edifice and communicating his own admiration of it to the goggling and fascinated visitor . . . the lasting impression is of our critic’s truly amazing breadth of reference
Mr James is hungry for – and not unworthy of – engagement with important issues. A collection of dignity and coherence . . . tellingly timely