This is a forgotten post; one that I mostly wrote at the end of August, and then forgot to publish. So here it is. Basically, North Face of Soho was the last ‘holiday book’ I managed to read. NFoS is the fourth and, to date, last volume of Clive James’s Unreliable Memoirs. It is an altogether darker book than its predecessors. James grows up, properly. He becomes addicted (to marijuana). He encounters failure and, just as challengingly, he encounters success. He becomes a father and a family man… All of his memoirs are written with the considerable wisdom of hindsight and – freely acknowledged – bags of poetic lience. His witty aphorisms are still much to the fore but now his forensic intelligence is devoted less to humouristic accounts about growing up and much more to the twin processes of learning and writing together with choosing where to go in life – and why. At times it reads like a manual for the budding author: a writer ‘learns by falling short, and finding out why… Anyone who can write can write better … the most common and destructive mistake is to neglect the simple for the sake of the spectacular.’ What makes the book compelling is that, wit much to the fore, James does not flinch from honesty about his own failings. As he puts it, ‘…a book about growing wiser would be dangerously untrue if it suggested that there is always something charming about the attainment of self knowledge. Sometimes it is exactly like meeting the wrong stranger in a dark alley.’