by Clive James
A fictionalized autobiography of a writer’s school days in Australia, or an autobiographical novel, according to him. Anyway, the book is both appallingly funny — although the writing is staccato and not very ornate, he times a punchline with impeccable skill — and genuinely interesting as an account of 1940s and '50s Sydney from the eyes of a child and then an adolescent. It also contains a few quite perspicacious insights into human, or at least a cynical human’s, nature, such as: "I rather liked the idea of being a shit — a common conceit among those who don’t realize just how shitty they really are." Great stuff, exact and clever.