FLYING VISITS: Postcards from the Observer 1976-83 by Clive James

FLYING VISITS: Postcards from the Observer 1976-83

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KIRKUS REVIEW

British humorist and literary and TV critic James collects the ""postcards""--or lively travel notes--he wrote over a seven-year stint with the London Observer. James' humor rarely builds; rather, it maintains a steady level of amused observance of his own obsessive compulsiveness, beginning with his long crush (from childhood upward) on planes and flight. First spellbound by early piston-driven airliners flying over his home in the Sydney suburbs, it wasn't until cheap mass travel was introduced that he got airborne on a flight to Milan. "". . . I was petrified when we took off, largely because I had made the mistake of looking out of the window at the moment when the pilot arrived by Jeep. He was wearing an eye-patch, walked with a stiff leg and saluted the aircraft with what appeared to be an aluminum hand. Around his neck the silver brassard of a Polish award for bravery gleamed in the weak sunlight."" (Just a touch of Perelman in that travel drama!) As a stunt, James describes going around the world in three days by jet--and putting on ""a net gain in weight of about 10 pounds for the trip. Of the 18 men who survived Magellan's voyage, few would have had the same complaint."" He sketches funny pictures of being in the press entourage accompanying Queen Elizabeth on her 1983 tour of the States, and of how the royal party endured an overly massive entertainment thrown by Twentieth Century-Fox on one of its sound stages--a show which included too many Frank Sinatra--Perry Como duets. He also is brilliantly amusing about airports, flight films, foods, and folks in Russia, New York, Japan, Rome, Salzburg (where even the cakes are baked in the shape of Herbert Von Karajan's head), China, Disney's Epcot and Jerusalem. The naked girls at Paris' Crazy Horse Saloon proved to an audience consisting exclusively of Japanese businessmen ""that human flesh can look exactly like wax fruit in the right light."" Consistently spirited ironies.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1986
Publisher: Norton