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Alan Coren

Alan Coren is Editor of Punch. The most recent of his books is The Rhinestone as Big as the Ritz. His Tissues for Men is due to appear in September.

Falling Stars

Alan Coren, 5 November 1981

It is not easy to determine which is the better book. Richard Burton was printed by Butler and Tanner Limited, Peter Sellers by the Fakenham Press, and since the one establishment is in Somerset and the other in Norfolk, it is fair to absolve both of them from the sort of catchpenny opportunist hustling which these days has the publishing world of London by the throat. They are merely carrying out orders; they do not know what is going on.

Let me first of all say this: the man is not a crook.

American Masturbation

Alan Coren, 17 July 1980

Like most people with a Polish grandfather. I used to hang around a lot waiting for him to say something wise. Born in 1885, surviving until 1978, he looked, certainly during his last decade, like the repository of all the aggregated arcana of Central Europe: squat, neckless, ice-eyed and almost entirely silent, he spent his latter days sitting in a burgundy moquette fauteuil, gazing out at the Manor House traffic-lights, while who knew what flickered and crackled across his ancient synapses. Give or take the odd skin-tone, he might have been a displaced lama waiting for the Chinese to get out of Tibet, so that he could go back home and live forever. Unfortunately, he was very dumb. He passed nothing on to his heirs, or to their heirs, because he didn’t know anything. It was perhaps the most interesting thing about him: I have never met anyone who was simultaneously so old and so ignorant. Yet for all that, there was one occasion on which he actually came across with the goods: an authentic axiom, a shimmering apercu, a musical saw.

Alan Coren

Alan Brien, 4 December 1980

Alan Coren is the editor of Punch, and also probably the funniest writer of humorous columns now in regular practice – by no means an inevitable, or even usual, combination. Punch seems to...

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