An existential hero

16 April 2011 12:00 am

Sam Leith is enthralled by a masterpiece on monotony, but is devastated by its author’s death

Cross-cultural exchanges

12 February 2011 12:00 am

The 18 stories, each around a dozen pages long, in E.C. Osondu’s Voice of America seem to have poured out of him like water. They have a fluency, an evenness of tone and texture, that creates an illusion of transparency and simplicity.


Forgotten laughter

8 January 2011 12:00 am

The Radio Times now lists 72 channels, and that’s not all of them.


Twin peaks

8 January 2011 12:00 am

It’s that time of year. The great reckoning is upon us. Insurance is being renewed. Tax returns are being ferreted out. Roofing jobs are being appraised and budgeted for. And spouses are being trundled into central London for the annual session of dialysis at the theatre.

Lords of laughter

1 January 2011 12:00 am

Great actors and great sportsmen now almost expect a knighthood. Why are great comedians limited to lesser honours?


The sound of broken glass

27 November 2010 12:00 am

What do Evelyn Waugh, Peter Cook and Chris Morris have in common? I would have said ‘irreverence’ and left it at that; but the social scientist Peter Wilkin has written a book on the subject, The Strange Case of Tory Anarchism.

Dying of laughter

27 November 2010 12:00 am

Marcus Berkmann on the few genuinely funny books aimed at this year’s Christmas market


Anything for a laugh

14 April 2010 12:00 am

A hundred years ago, when Britannia still ruled the waves, the Royal Navy fell victim to a humiliating hoax, reports of which kept the public amused for a few wintry days in February 1910.


A couple of drifters

3 February 2010 12:00 am

Paul Torday was 59 when his first novel, the highly acclaimed Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, was published in 2006.

Quirky books for Christmas

9 December 2009 12:00 am

After the Christmas ‘funny’ books, here’s an even larger pile of Christmas ‘quirky’ books.

But then the snow turned to rain

14 October 2009 12:00 am

My daughter when small came home from school one night singing these extraordinary lines: ‘Fortune, my foe, why dost thou frown on me/ And will thy favours never lighter be?’

The one that got away

14 October 2009 12:00 am

Michael Palin is the meekest, mildest and nicest of the Pythons.

Cries and whispers

23 September 2009 12:00 am

Strange Days Indeed, by Francis Wheen

Joking apart

16 September 2009 12:00 am

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.

Behind the wit

13 May 2009 12:00 am

Home to Roost and Other Peckings by Deborah Devonshire, edited by Charlotte Mosley

Unkind hearts and Jews

12 December 2008 12:00 am

Israel Rank, by Roy Horniman

Humph swings

3 December 2008 12:00 am

Last Chorus: An Autobiographical Medley, by Humphrey Lyttleton

Highs and lows on the laughometer

26 November 2008 12:00 am

Just What I Always Wanted: Unwrapping the World’s Most Curious Presents, by Robin Laurance