The best quotes from broadcaster and writer Clive James

Here are the 25 best quotes from celebrated broadcaster and writer Clive James.

– “I was born in 1939. The other big event of that year was the outbreak of the Second World War, but for the moment that did not affect me.”

– “All I can do is turn a phrase until it catches the light.”

– “Actually, like the vast majority of Australians, I had been born and raised in a city, but in the British imagination at that time the whole of Australia was still the outback, which was somehow equipped with a beach. Later on, this outback beach acquired an Opera House and a row of brick bungalows, one of them occupied by Kylie Minogue.”

– “Disco dancing is really dancing for people who hate dancing, since the beat is so monotonous that only the champions can find interesting ways of reacting to it. There is no syncopation, just the steady thump of a giant moron knocking in an endless nail.”

– “A painter can leave you with nothing left to say. A writer leaves you with everything to say.”

– “I can now vouch for the fact that no man ever completed a sentence in front of the Iron Lady while she was in residence” – James, recalling being invited by Margaret Thatcher for a drink in 10 Downing Street.

– “There is a difference between freedom of speech and the freedom to get a kick out of inflicting misery” – James on phone hacking.

– “The idea of living your whole life in the public eye I find beyond repellent” – James, who is not a fan of “twittering”.

– “To me [the Opera House] looks like a portable typewriter full of oyster shells, and to the contention that it echoes the sails of yachts on the harbour I can only point out that the yachts on the harbour don’t waste any time echoing the opera houses.”

– “Fiction is life with the dull bits left out.”

– “Unfortunately I can’t [drive]. Or rather I can, but nobody believes in my ability enough to give me a licence.”

– “The streets, at least in this part of town, seemed impossibly clean in comparison to London. The public telephones were unvandalised. For a London telephone booth to look like that it would have to be guarded around the clock by the SAS.”

– “Every page you turn demonstrates his complete lack of talent as a writer. The rash of three dots that appear throughout the book give the impression that the narrative has measles” – James on Dan Brown’s Inferno.

– “People who are really serious about wanting to abolish the monarchy should use the humanitarian argument, but they are nearly always too dumb to realise that all those apparent privileges are really a heap of obligations, many of them tedious.”

– “I am a reprehensible character who needs to clean up his act.”

– “Words” – when asked what he thought was the most important thing he had brought to television.

– “All television ever did was shrink the demand for ordinary movies. The demand for extraordinary movies increased. If any one thing is wrong with the movie industry today, it is the unrelenting effort to astonish.”

– “Television is simultaneously blamed, often by the same people, for worsening the world and for being powerless to change it.”

– “Fame comes to a point like a pimple. Every famous person, whether hugely, averagely or only slightly famous, has a moment when he suspects that he is as famous as he is ever going to get.”

– “I’ve made myself a patsy. I’ve been on TV too often, wearing too many funny hats, to stand on dignity.”

– “I never feared growing old, because I was always very conscious that I was bad at being young.”

– “If you don’t know the exact moment when the lights will go out, you might as well read until they do.”

– “I’m getting near the end. I don’t want to cast a gloom, an air of doom, over the programme but I’m a man who is approaching his terminus” – when he was seriously ill.

– “My obituaries were so fabulous I felt more or less obliged to walk the plank” –  James, whose death was said to be imminent in 2013, recalls valedictory interviews at that time.

– “The sure sign of a weak man who ascends to glory is that he can’t tolerate having strong men around him.”

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