A new approach to self-improvement is taking off in Silicon Valley: cold, hard rationality.
The photograph and the words arrive simultaneously. They guarantee each other. You believe the words more because the photograph verifies them, and trust the photograph because you trust the words. Additionally, each puts further pressure on the interpretation: A war photograph can, for example, make a grim situation palatable, just as a story about a scandal can make the politician depicted look pathetic. But images, unlike words, are often presumed to be unbiased. The facticity of a photograph can conceal the craftiness of its content and selection.
Since 2010, when the brilliant Australian critic, poet and memoirist Clive James learned he had terminal leukemia, he’s had his afterburners flipped on. He has been on a vivifying late-career tear.
His new volume of poems, “Sentenced to Life,” feels like the most important of his late books. It’s a harrowing collection, gravid with meaning, unflinching in its appraisal of the author’s mistakes, including infidelity, and plain-spoken in its reckoning with his life’s terminus.
But then finally we understand: This isn’t a suspense novel. Never will be and doesn’t want to be. It’s a meditation. As well as the physical impact of Cambodia, we’re shown its eternal culture, where fate and karma are paramount, and ghosts are less weary than the living. Grieve is a symbol — a twig tossed into the broad current, to end up wherever he ends up. It’s giving nothing away to say that he has his money and his passport stolen, meets a girl, gets his money and his passport back and leaves for Thailand once again. A long loop, back to where he started. Very Eastern, we might say, but sharper than that, because this is Cambodia, after all, a country that has had loops of its own.
Filled with lively anecdote and scholarly commentary, Grigson’s book is a delightful guide to our long national obsession with wildlife.
Your first question is “Should I pee myself, or crap my pants?” Do both, just to be safe. Once word gets out that you have $1.5 billion, you’re going to be set upon by mooching friends and distant relatives. Some of these might be put off by one form of effluvia, but not the other, and there’s no way to tell ahead of time.