The new yorker

Reading pulp fiction taught me how to write, said S.J. Perelman

This volume of short essays – originally written for the New Yorker in the 1940s and 1950s but never before assembled – provides ample evidence that the great S.J. Perelman could misspend his youth with the best of them. It’s also the closest thing to an autobiography he ever completed: a series of comic reflections on the awful, absorbing books and movies which entertained him when he should have been attending his classes at Brown University (from which he eventually dropped out), or keeping a steady job. Recollected in the tranquillity (or complacency) of being a well-established, middle-aged family man, these guilty pleasures prove less absorbing to him the second

Small but perfect: So Late in the Day by Claire Keegan reviewed

In an email from Claire Keegan’s Fiction Clinic, I learned that she’d be delivering three seminars in Wexford on ‘How Fiction Works’, while down the road, at the Write by the Sea Festival, Faber would be launching her new hardback. I was excited. I’m a Keegan fan. I even considered going to Wexford. Keegan’s method is to take a big issue and then put a small, homely example under the microscope So I was a little miffed when the hardback turned out to be a large-print 47-page story. Faber has been publishing short stories in small pleasing paperbacks, modestly priced (£3.50) for years. It did Keegan’s The Forester’s Daughter in

My quest for a universal cartoon

A cartoon caption is a work of art. It is a sitcom in miniature — but whereas a situation comedy might take half an hour to reach its punchline, a cartoon caption has to do so in seconds. Cartoonists toil endlessly, revising and rephrasing, to perfect a caption. There are rules. The funniest word has to appear at the end. The caption has to be a balance between anticipation and delivery. The line has to be succinct and the rhythm has to be right — clumsy phrasing can ruin an otherwise strong comic idea. In 2006 a blogger called Charles Lavoie wrote that every New Yorker cartoon could be captioned