The Book of My Enemy
Has Been Remaindered

by Clive James

The book of my enemy has been remaindered

And I am pleased.

In vast quantities it has been remaindered.

Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized

And sits in piles in a police warehouse,

My enemy’s much-praised effort sits in piles

In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.

Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles

One passes down reflecting on life’s vanities,

Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews

Lavished to no avail upon one’s enemy’s book—

For behold, here is that book

Among these ranks and the banks of duds,

These ponderous and seemingly irreducible cairns

Of complete stiffs.

The book of my enemy has been remaindered

And I rejoice.

It has gone with bowed head like a defeated legion

Beneath the yoke.

What avail him now his awards and prizes,

The praise expended upon his meticulous technique,

His individual new voice?

Knocked into the middle of next week

His brainchild now consorts with the bad buys,

The sinkers, clinkers, dogs and dregs,

The Edsels of the world of movable type,

The bummers that no amount of hype could shift,

The unbudgeable turkeys.

Yea, his slim volume with its understated wrapper

Bathes in the glare of the brightly jacketed Hitler’s War Machine,

His unmistakably individual new voice

Shares the same scrapyard with a forlorn skyscraper

Of The Kung-Fu Cookbook,

His honesty, proclaimed by himself and believed in by others,

His renowned abhorrence of all posturing and pretence,

Is there with Pertwee’s Promenades and Pierrots—

One Hundred Years of Seaside Entertainment,

And (oh, this above all) his sensibility,

His sensibility and its hair-like filaments,

His delicate, quivering sensibility is now as one

With Barbara Windsor’s Book of Boobs,

A volume graced by the descriptive rubric

“My boobs will give everyone hours of fun.”

Soon now a book of mine could be remaindered also,

Though not to the monumental extent

In which the chastisement of remaindering has been meted out

To the book of my enemy,

Since in the case of my own book it will be due

To a miscalculated print run, a marketing error—

Nothing to do with merit.

But just supposing that such an event should hold

Some slight element of sadness, it will be offset

By the memory of this sweet moment.

Chill the champagne and polish the crystal goblets!

The book of my enemy has been remaindered

And I am glad.

From Opal Sunset: Selected Poems, 1958–2008, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008.