‘Like a brown condom full of walnuts’ and 22 other memorable Clive James quotes

People all over the world have been paying tribute to the great Clive James, whose death aged 80 was announced on Wednesday.

A writer, broadcaster and TV critic, everyone will have a favourite Clive James quote. Some people can no doubt fill a page with them, probably more.

Here are 23 worth reading again. And again.


‘Fiction is life with the dull bits left out.’


‘Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.’


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


‘There is no reasoning someone out of a position he has not reasoned himself into.’


‘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.’


‘A life without fame can be a good life, but fame without a life is no life at all.’


‘Anyone afraid of what he thinks television is doing to the world is probably just afraid of the world.’


‘Stop worrying … nobody gets out of this world alive.’


‘There is nothing like a poem for transmitting a mental flavour. Instead of trying to describe it, you can evoke it.’


‘We are often told that the next generation of literati won’t have private libraries: everything will be in the computer. It’s a rational solution, but that’s probably what’s wrong with it. Being book crazy is an aspect of love, and therefore scarcely rational at all.’


‘All attempts to put oneself in a bad light are doomed to be frustrated. The ego arranges the bad light to its own satisfaction.’


‘Disco dancing is just the steady thump of a giant moron knocking in an endless nail.’


‘Some people are different, and so are the rest of us.’


‘Even in moments of tranquility, Murray Walker sounds like a man whose trousers are on fire.’


‘It is only when they go wrong that machines remind you how powerful they are.’


‘When I finally embraced abstinence it was because of the simple urge to work a longer day. Thus, without joining Alocoholics Anonymous, I was at last able to leave Piss-Artists Anonymous.’


‘The key to effective teaching is to remember how you learned.’


‘Like most people who smoked umpteen cigarettes a day, I tasted only the first one. The succeeding umpteen minus one were a compulsive ritual which had no greater savour than the fumes of burning money.’


‘Generally it is our failures that civilize us. Triumph confirms us in our habits.’


‘The essence of a class system is not that the privileged are conscious of their privileges, but that the deprived are conscious of their deprivations.’


‘All intellectual tendencies are corrupted when they consort with power.’


‘I’ve got a lot done since my death.’


‘[Arnold Schwarzenegger] looks like a brown condom full of walnuts.’

RIP Clive James


Sky News mixed up Clive James with Clive Anderson and what a shame we can’t read what he’d have made of that

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