It is not difficult to recognize excellence. Some find it difficult to accept – in others; their pride and pretension can make them jealous, or at least envious, of the talents they lack. Others recognize superior talent and are content to admire it. They do their best, but the champions do it better. In every field there are the gold-medalists and the also-rans. I am not a gold-medalist.
As the author of a book and a blog few have ever heard of, let alone read, it is not hard for me to recognize and admire the genius of great writers. But there are two Australian authors who have written books I would love to have written myself. They both have multiple thousands of fans. Their styles of writing appeal to me because they have succeeded in writing as I would like to have written. In Australia and far beyond they need no introduction. If any of you honoring me by reading this is unfamiliar with their work, I recommend you discover why I have unlimited admiration for both of them.
CLIVE JAMES, who called himself a “kid from Kogarah”, the Sydney suburb where he and I grew up (at the same time, though we never met), left Australia after his University studies and became an international celebrity as an author and popular figure for decades on British television. Among his many books, his autobiography, “Unreliable Memoirs” (1980), is my kinda book, not only because I am familiar with the locale in which we both wore short pants and rode billy-carts, but because he is a master of tongue-in-cheek story-telling. Our subsequent careers could not be more different, but I would love to have had the skill, the sense of humor and the page-turning talent he displays in this book.
PHILLIP ADAMS, another post-war product of the suburbs, but in rival Melbourne, and of the same vintage as Clive and myself, has been nothing less than a household word in Australia for the last fifty years. His contribution to the Australian film-industry, his books, columns and conferences, and especially his late-night talk show on national radio, have given him an enormous following. He left school at 15, as I did. The difference is that I left with my High School diploma, the “Leaving Certificate”, in my pocket. Phillip is a diploma-less dropout (he defines himself as a “doddery autodidact”). He has, however, since acquired no less than six honorary doctorates (against my one and only – from the corporate “University” I co-founded !), and has had an asteroid named after him. Phillip Adams is a star.
The recent selection of his favorite columns in “Insights and Reflections” (2017), is, I belatedly discovered, the nearest thing to a blog – like this one – I have ever read. It is presumptuous on my part even to compare his work with mine. Not only does he cover a wide variety of topics (including, however, not a few highly irreverent pieces on religious credulity and frequent affirmation of his own atheism), but his style of writing is a veritable model for my own attempts at both serious and light-hearted prose. I cannot recommend it enough. (If ever you read this, Phillip, Mr Adams, do not expect this goodonyer to getcha a soaring of sales.)
P.S. Readers may be interested to read comments from Thom and myself on the recent post “Everybody’s Nose Knows. Except God’s”, in which I offer several savory quotations from Phillip Adams’ book.