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The Fire of Joy


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In the last book he completed before he died, Clive James offers a personal guide to the poems he found it impossible to forget.

About the Author

Clive James was the multi-million-copy bestselling author of more than forty books. His poetry collection Sentenced to Life and his translation of Dante's The Divine Comedy were both Sunday Times top ten bestsellers, and his collections of verse were shortlisted for many prizes. In 2012 he was appointed CBE and in 2013 an Officer of the Order of Australia. He died in 2019.


A treasure trove of poetic pleasure * The Times *
The Fire of Joy is a proper pleasure. Fun and fight-picking, wise and persuasive. James loves a layman and, by the end, the layman certainly loves James . . . "It's a dipper," said my husband, reading over my shoulder. If I wasn't on review duty, that's the way I'd read it: dipping in at random, at bedtime, a poem a night. -- Laura Freeman * The Times *
The Fire of Joy is a set of personal, quintessentially Jamesian commentaries on 80 of his favourite poems. * Guardian *
A must for anthology lovers . . . The late, great critic and poet doesn't so much look forward as back; these are old favourites (Byron, Wordsworth, Masefield, Owen) from a lifetime's reading, with personal notes on each one. I found it moving as well as a joy. -- Bel Mooney * Daily Mail *
A wonderful anthology of 80 or so poems to memorise and read aloud, selected by the late critic and humorist Clive James. Enjoy the poems and his witty, opinionated mini-essays about his choices. * The Times Best Books of 2020 So Far... *
Clive James's joyous farewell . . . from Thomas Wyatt to Carol Ann Duffy, this valedictory volume features 80 poems he learned and loved, each accompanied by an essay to persuade us of their brilliance. -- Rishi Dastidar * Guardian, Best Poetry of 2020 *
Clive James was so prolific that he's still publishing books a year after his death . . . [These] are poems to "murmur under your breath at the bus stop, declaim aloud in the bath, roar from the rooftops". -- James Marriott * The Times, Best Literary Non-fiction Books of the Year 2020 *
A book to lighten the darkness . . . What links them all [the selected poems] are Clive James' typically witty, sometimes abrasive and always passionate comments. It's a book to dip into and ponder in this bleak midwinter. -- Piers Plowright * Tablet *
Extraordinarily cogent . . . I have read many old men's books over the years, and even the best writers often lose their flavour . . . But this book shows no diminution whatever of James's talents, and it's fueled by his obvious love of the form. -- Marcus Berkmann * Spectator *
[This book] is full of boisterous life . . . His farewell is funny, intellectually sharp and a faithful companion for this age of turmoil and uncertainty . . . [it] rings and rhymes with passion and learning from a big brain who found room in his soul for poetry and in his heart for the contentment it can bring in good times and the solace it carries in bad times. -- Hugh MacDonald * Herald *
The context of [this book's] composition is inescapable and each choice seems more moving in light of James' impending demise . . . The Fire of Joy is a generous and genial valediction from one of Australia's most famous wits. -- James Antoniou * Sydney Morning Herald *
A deeply affecting book that blends autobiography with literary criticism, and is filled with James's trademark breezy erudition and wit . . . It is indeed a joy to read, and savour. -- Troy Bramston * Weekend Australian *

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