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Comedy

The one that got away

14 October 2009
Halfway to Hollywood: Diaries, 1980-1988 Michael Palin

Weidenfeld, pp.621, 20

Michael Palin is the meekest, mildest and nicest of the Pythons. The latest chunk of his diaries traces his attempt during the 1980s to break away from his wacky colleagues… Read more

Cries and whispers

23 September 2009
Strange Days Indeed Francis Wheen

Fourth Estate, pp.344, 18.99

The habit of dividing the past into centuries or decades might be historiographically suspect, but by now it seems unavoidable. And it is possible that, because we now expect decades… Read more

Joking apart

16 September 2009
A Gate at the Stairs Lorrie Moore

Faber, pp.322, 16.99

Free association underpins the comedy of Lorrie Moore’s writing — or perhaps the verb should be ‘unpins’, since her prose spins off in tangential, apparently affectless riffs. Free association underpins… Read more

Behind the wit

13 May 2009
Home to Roost and Other Peckings Deborah Devonshire

John Murray, pp.168, 10

Home to Roost and Other Peckings by Deborah Devonshire, edited by Charlotte Mosley As Alan Bennett says in his introduction, ‘Deborah Devonshire is not someone to whom one can say… Read more

Unkind hearts and Jews

12 December 2008
Israel Rank Roy Horniman

Faber Finds, pp.414, 15

Israel Rank, by Roy Horniman It was the second or third time that I ever saw Kind Hearts and Coronets that I noticed in the opening credits: ‘Based on the… Read more

Humph swings

3 December 2008
Last Chorus: An Autobiographical Medley Humphrey Lyttleton

JR Books, pp.447, 18.99

Last Chorus: An Autobiographical Medley, by Humphrey Lyttleton ‘Old Etonian ex-Guards Officer jazz trumpeter’. That was the way tabloid gossip columnists used to describe Humphrey Lyttelton (1921-2008) in the early… Read more

Highs and lows on the laughometer

26 November 2008
Just What I Always Wanted: Unwrapping the World’s Most Curious Presents Robin Laurance

Quercus, pp.256, 9.99

The Bank of England Bedside Book, Volume I: Adventures, Escapades and Memories Paul Tempest

Stacey International, 16.95

In Other Words John Mortimer

Viking, 14.99

Just What I Always Wanted: Unwrapping the World’s Most Curious Presents, by Robin Laurance What might seem an obviously Christmassy book is Robin Laurance’s Just What I Always Wanted: Unwrapping… Read more