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Spectator books of the year: Marcus Berkmann reveals the only book this year he didn’t want to finish

22 November 2014

3:00 PM

22 November 2014

3:00 PM

As someone who spent several years writing TV reviews mainly for laughs, I kneel before the twin idols of Clive James and Nancy Banks-Smith, without whom I wouldn’t have had a career. As we all know, James is a touch under the weather these days, and it was probably for sentimental reasons that I found my way to A Point of View (Picador, £16.99, published in 2011), a collection of his contributions to the Radio 4 series between 2007 and 2009. Each of these talks, 60 in all, runs to around 1,600 words, and James appends an explanatory afterword to every one. They are magnificent, possibly even masterly and, added together, comprise a single-volume primer on how to write for broadcast. In his heyday, as even James himself might admit, he was prone to bumptiousness, but that has all gone now. In old age, his writing retains all its elegance, intelligence and pinpoint comic timing, and there’s a softer heart to it: hard-won wisdom, you might call it.

This was the only book I read this year that I didn’t want to finish, and I ended up stretching it over three months, purely to extend the pleasure.


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