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1 Beaverton LIT- CRIT & REF

Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts

by

Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts Cover

ISBN13: 9780393061161
ISBN10: 0393061167
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Review-A-Day

"If you open Cultural Amnesia in the hope of getting a bluffer's guide to the intellectuals, you will be disappointed; but if you read it as an account of how an educator has himself been self-educated, you will be rewarded well enough." Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Forty years in the making, a new cultural canon that celebrates truth over hypocrisy, literature over totalitarianism.

Echoing Edward Said's belief that Western humanism is not enough, we need a universal humanism, the renowned critic Clive James presents here his life's work. Containing over one hundred original essays, organized by quotations from A to Z, Cultural Amnesia illuminates, rescues, or occasionally destroys the careers of many of the greatest thinkers, humanists, musicians, artists, and philosophers of the twentieth century. In discussing, among others, Louis Armstrong, Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, James writes, If the humanism that makes civilization civilized is to be preserved into the new century, it will need advocates. These advocates will need a memory, and part of that memory will need to be of an age in which they were not yet alive. Soaring to Montaigne-like heights, Cultural Amnesia is precisely the book to burnish these memories of a Western civilization that James fears is nearly lost. 110 photographs.

Review:

"From Anna Akhmatova to Stefan Zweig, Tacitus to Margaret Thatcher, this scintillating compendium of 110 new biographical essays plumbs the responsibilities of artists, intellectuals and political leaders. British critic James (Visions Before Midnight) structures each entry as a brief life sketch followed by quotations that spark an appreciation, a condemnation or a tangent (a piece on filmmaker Terry Gilliam veers into a discussion of torturers' pleasure in their work). Sometimes, as in his salute to Tony Curtis's acting or his savage assault on bebop legend John Coltrane's penchant for "subjecting some helpless standard to ritual murder," James's purpose is just bravura opinionating. But most articles are linked by a defense of liberal humanism against totalitarianisms of the left and right — and ideologues who champion them. He lionizes prewar Vienna's martyred Jewish cafe intellectuals; castigates French apologists for communism — especially Sartre, who "could sound as if he was talking about everything while saying nothing"; and chides Borges for not noticing Argentina's descent into fascism. This theme can grow intrusive; even in an entry on children's author Beatrix Potter, he feels called upon to denounce Soviet children's books. But James's brilliantly aphoristic prose, full of aesthetic insights but careful not to let aesthetics obscure morality, makes for a delightful browse suffused with a potent message. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright © Reed Business Information)

Review:

"Let us concede some things to Clive James right away. He is, or can be, a brilliantly original thinker; he is, or can be, a brilliant writer. He has read voraciously and multifariously on any number of subjects and put it all to excellent use. He has taught himself several languages, including some Japanese, by means of serious reading with the dictionary by his side. And having journeyed all over... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"In this towering volume, the fruit of 40 years of passionate involvement, James proves to be a consummate writer of biographical essays....James not only preserves culture and nurtures humanism but also revitalizes the beauty and power of the English language." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"It's not the sort of volume most people will want to read straight through, but rather one to dip into here and there — a volume to be treasured less for its own sake than for all the other books it will make the reader want to read." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Review:

"[A] finely written, valuable, and comprehensive almanac...highly recommended..." Library Journal

Review:

"Exemplary cogitations without a trace of jargon or better-read-than-thou condescension." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"James probably never intended for readers to consume his massive tome front to back; and tucking into the entries on a need-to-know basis can provide rich rewards with no choking risk. Grab a loaf here and there, and feed your mind." Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"Cultural Amnesia...is not to be read at a sitting. It is to be dipped into over weeks and months. If the dipper occasionally brings up exasperation, it brings up astonished delight far more often; and, best of all, exasperated astonished delight." Richard Eder, The Boston Globe

Review:

"A lifetime's reading has gone into this doorstop of a book. But I have to ask: What was James thinking?...James tries to capture this Vienna's bickering, zesty, experimental fizz, but it's a high-wire act even the most agile Viennese intellect couldn't pull off." Los Angeles Times

Book News Annotation:

On one hand, this work by British cultural and literary critic James can be seen as a simply an encyclopedic survey of figures important to the philosophy, history, politics, and arts of the 20th century (together with a small handful of non-20th century figures, such as the Roman historian Tacitus). It offers 116 separate profiles in which James offers his thoughts on such disparate individuals as Louis Armstrong, Jorge Luis Borges, Albert Camus, Dick Cavett, Charlie Chaplin, Miles Davis, Alfred Einsteni, W. C. Fields, Gustave Flaubert, Sigmund Freud, Edward Gibbon, Terry Gilliam, Adolf Hitler, Norman Mailer, Thomas Mann, Mao Zedong, Octavio Paz, Beatrix Potter, Rainier Maria Rilke, Edward Said, Jean-Paul Sartre, Margaret Thatcher, Leon Trotsky, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Despite this seeming eclecticism, James has a unitary purpose, which is to defend the values of reason and liberal democracy against "ideologists" and authoritarianism. Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

Containing more than 100 original essays organized by quotations, James illuminates, rescues, or occasionally destroys the careers of many of the greatest thinkers, humanists, musicians, artists, and philosophers of the 20th century. 110 photographs.

Synopsis:

Echoing Edward Said's belief that "Western humanism is not enough, we need a universal humanism," the renowned critic Clive James presents here his life's work. Containing over one hundred original essays, organized by quotations from A to Z, Cultural Amnesia illuminates, rescues, or occasionally destroys the careers of many of the greatest thinkers, humanists, musicians, artists, and philosophers of the twentieth century. In discussing, among others, Louis Armstrong, Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, James writes, "If the humanism that makes civilization civilized is to be preserved into the new century, it will need advocates. These advocates will need a memory, and part of that memory will need to be of an age in which they were not yet alive." Soaring to Montaigne-like heights, Cultural Amnesia is precisely the book to burnish these memories of a Western civilization that James fears is nearly lost.

About the Author

Clive James the author of numerous books of criticism, autobiography, and poetry, writes for the New York Times Book Review and the New Yorker. He lives in London.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Randy, January 24, 2008 (view all comments by Randy)
Cultural Amnesia is a richly rewarding book, but there are a couple of hints for the reader which should be passed along.
First of all, do not try to read this book all-at-once, or straight through. There is far too much here to take in en masse. You will want to go deliberately, to be able to digest what you read.
Second, have pencil and paper at hand while you read it. You will, I promise, want to make notes for further reading--authors you've never heard of, or whom you've forgotten, or whom you didn't know might be worth reading. The best way to read this book is to take it as the author's suggested starting point for further exploration.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(4 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780393061161
Author:
James, Clive
Publisher:
W. W. Norton & Company
Author:
live James
Author:
C
Subject:
Essays
Subject:
Artists
Subject:
Philosophers
Subject:
Movements - Humanism
Subject:
African
Subject:
Intellectuals
Subject:
Anthologies-Essays
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Reprint
Publication Date:
20070331
Binding:
Hardcover
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
912
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Anthologies » African Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Anthologies » Essays
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » Literary and Cultural Studies
Humanities » Philosophy » General

Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts Used Hardcover
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$11.95 In Stock
Product details 912 pages W. W. Norton & Company - English 9780393061161 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "From Anna Akhmatova to Stefan Zweig, Tacitus to Margaret Thatcher, this scintillating compendium of 110 new biographical essays plumbs the responsibilities of artists, intellectuals and political leaders. British critic James (Visions Before Midnight) structures each entry as a brief life sketch followed by quotations that spark an appreciation, a condemnation or a tangent (a piece on filmmaker Terry Gilliam veers into a discussion of torturers' pleasure in their work). Sometimes, as in his salute to Tony Curtis's acting or his savage assault on bebop legend John Coltrane's penchant for "subjecting some helpless standard to ritual murder," James's purpose is just bravura opinionating. But most articles are linked by a defense of liberal humanism against totalitarianisms of the left and right — and ideologues who champion them. He lionizes prewar Vienna's martyred Jewish cafe intellectuals; castigates French apologists for communism — especially Sartre, who "could sound as if he was talking about everything while saying nothing"; and chides Borges for not noticing Argentina's descent into fascism. This theme can grow intrusive; even in an entry on children's author Beatrix Potter, he feels called upon to denounce Soviet children's books. But James's brilliantly aphoristic prose, full of aesthetic insights but careful not to let aesthetics obscure morality, makes for a delightful browse suffused with a potent message. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright © Reed Business Information)
"Review A Day" by , "If you open Cultural Amnesia in the hope of getting a bluffer's guide to the intellectuals, you will be disappointed; but if you read it as an account of how an educator has himself been self-educated, you will be rewarded well enough." (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
"Review" by , "In this towering volume, the fruit of 40 years of passionate involvement, James proves to be a consummate writer of biographical essays....James not only preserves culture and nurtures humanism but also revitalizes the beauty and power of the English language."
"Review" by , "It's not the sort of volume most people will want to read straight through, but rather one to dip into here and there — a volume to be treasured less for its own sake than for all the other books it will make the reader want to read."
"Review" by , "[A] finely written, valuable, and comprehensive almanac...highly recommended..."
"Review" by , "Exemplary cogitations without a trace of jargon or better-read-than-thou condescension."
"Review" by , "James probably never intended for readers to consume his massive tome front to back; and tucking into the entries on a need-to-know basis can provide rich rewards with no choking risk. Grab a loaf here and there, and feed your mind."
"Review" by , "Cultural Amnesia...is not to be read at a sitting. It is to be dipped into over weeks and months. If the dipper occasionally brings up exasperation, it brings up astonished delight far more often; and, best of all, exasperated astonished delight."
"Review" by , "A lifetime's reading has gone into this doorstop of a book. But I have to ask: What was James thinking?...James tries to capture this Vienna's bickering, zesty, experimental fizz, but it's a high-wire act even the most agile Viennese intellect couldn't pull off."
"Synopsis" by , Containing more than 100 original essays organized by quotations, James illuminates, rescues, or occasionally destroys the careers of many of the greatest thinkers, humanists, musicians, artists, and philosophers of the 20th century. 110 photographs.
"Synopsis" by , Echoing Edward Said's belief that "Western humanism is not enough, we need a universal humanism," the renowned critic Clive James presents here his life's work. Containing over one hundred original essays, organized by quotations from A to Z, Cultural Amnesia illuminates, rescues, or occasionally destroys the careers of many of the greatest thinkers, humanists, musicians, artists, and philosophers of the twentieth century. In discussing, among others, Louis Armstrong, Walter Benjamin, Sigmund Freud, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, James writes, "If the humanism that makes civilization civilized is to be preserved into the new century, it will need advocates. These advocates will need a memory, and part of that memory will need to be of an age in which they were not yet alive." Soaring to Montaigne-like heights, Cultural Amnesia is precisely the book to burnish these memories of a Western civilization that James fears is nearly lost.
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