Cultural Amnesia culls historical snippets, essays and literature from the collective cultural pool. Clive James, however, considers it an honest attempt to resuscitate, within the confines of 876 pages, what he perceives to be the dead(ish) body of cultural literacy. James uses the words and life stories of important cultural figures to perform an improvised shock therapy on readers. From the self-swollen lines of Miles Davis: “If I don’t like what they write, I get into my Ferrari, and I drive away,” to the more subtle musings of Jose Saramago: “…the melancholy provoked inevitably by the study of our past is transformed into desperation,” the book employs biographical information and historical commentary to form an abridged cultural encyclopedia. It only works as a book to be thumbed through occasionally, which is, incidentally, what the author intended.