I love Clive James' writing - especially his wry style of combining haughty superciliousness with biting self-deprecation, often within the space of one line. He writes like he speaks, with a verbose sarcasm, and throughout reading May Week Was In June it's almost impossible not to hear his nasal, scoffing tones narrating the book for you.
And while this third (and final?) instalment in his autobiographical memoirs (following the hugely funny Unreliable Memoirs and equally hilarious Falling Towards England) contains the familiar elements of James' comedic style, it doesn't quite measure up to its two predecessors.
Unreliable Memoirs, where James told of his childhood days in post-war suburban Sydney, didn't have to exert any effort whatsoever to raise a laugh: James' skewed take on his youthful surroundings in Kogarah coupled perfectly with the countless moments of hilarity he lived through and strange and twisted acquaintances he made. In the same vein, Falling Towards England introduced us to a young man desperately out of his depth as a newcomer to the Mother Country, armed only with an ill-fitting suit and cardboard suitcase.
May Week Was In June is a continuation of James' days in Britain, as a late twentysomething attempting to forge an acting career in Cambridge while simultaneously stumbling clumsily through his English degree. Even though he's older he's still no wiser, being cursed with an overly healthy interest in women, a not-so-healthy interest in pints of ale and frustrating his teachers and himself by forgoing his assigned texts in their entirety to read countless books of his own choosing.
Yes, it's funny, and it certainly continues to reinforce James' portrayal of his younger self as more larrikin than laureate and more clown than Casanova. He's still a fish out of water, despite having immersed himself for many years in British culture, and his distinctly Australian outlook stands out in 1960s Cambridge like a sore thumb.
The funny moments, though, don't tend to come as thick and fast as in the first two memoirs. This was a shame, as episodes such as James practising his twist in his darkened bedroom in Swiss Cottage, and his teenage sex education in the back of a Kogarah garage, were what made the first two books so laugh-out-loud funny. James has grown up in his third boo, and is a slightly more serious and focused character (with the emphasis on slightly, though!), despite his shortcomings as a student and his scorn for conservative behaviour. However, the narration is still flawless in its eloquency and James proves he has not lost his sharp and unique way of observing the world around him with a cynicism that never grates, but constantly entertains.