Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Remainder Bin

Rob Spence (who arrived yesterday with wife, Elaine) told me about this poem by poet, essayist, critic Clive James and I found it on the New York Times Papercuts blog (where you can read it in its entirety). I thought this portrait of an author gloating about the "downfall" of a rival, when he finds his books at the equivalent of one one of our warehouse sales, so funny. Authors can't be this bitchy, right?

Here's the first stanza.
The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased.
In vast quantities it has been remaindered
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy's much-prized effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.
Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles
One passes down reflecting on life's vanities,
Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews
Lavished to no avail upon one's enemy's book --
For behold, here is that book
Among these ranks and banks of duds,
These ponderous and seemingly irreducible cairns
Of complete stiffs.
I laughed even more when Rob told me that he had read it in James' book (The Book of My Enemy: Collected verse 1958 - 2003) when it was, itself, remaindered!

I love the honesty with which Clive James once told poet Peter Porter on ABC Radio:
I think the control I had over my work was less than adequate. There was nothing wrong with the good bits in my poems, it’s just that they were packed around with lots and lots of bad bits, and I think that the only way I’ve improved in the last several decades [. . .] is that I’ve learned to leave out the bad bits. I’m not sure you do improve beyond that.


Anonymous said...

Of course not. Writers are brothers and sisters in harms - sorry, arms - and they're never bitchy towards each other, and they NEVER secretly make videotapes of other writers having sex in dodgy hotels...

Great poem and lovely caricature of Clive James...

- Poppadumdum

Greenbottle said...

aha ha...

clive james is one interesting aussie bloke.
i've bought quite a few of his books including his short piece essay collections from warehouse sales/ remainedered bins here.

bibliobibuli said...

maybe we should call them reminder bins?

Anonymous said...

TP made an interesting observation once, that witches sort of hate each other, but are thankful the others are around because then it means they're not the only ones. Same goes for writers I guess :)

Rob Spence said...

I have to say that Clive is one of my heroes, remaindered or not. I recently blogged about his latest book, Cultural Amnesia, which I think is a massively important book, distilling forty years of reflections on culture. And it's funny too!

Anonymous said...

Ah, but you see, the poem in its entirety PLANS for the possibility of the author's own book being remaindered! It's very clever. His ass is covered, as the Americans say.

-- Preeta

Tony said...

Clive James is probably my favorite culture and book commentator.
Tony S.

bibliobibuli said...

right. you've all convinced me. i have to read clive james (whether in a remaindered book or otherwise!)