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Falling Stars

Alan Coren, 5 November 1981

Richard Burton 
by Paul Ferris.
Weidenfeld, 212 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77966 4
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Peter Sellers 
by Alexander Walker.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77965 6
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... 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 ...
Nixon: A Study in Extremes of Fortune 
by Lord Longford.
Weidenfeld, 205 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 297 77708 4
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... Let me first of all say this: the man is not a crook. So much for Lord Longford. As far as his appalling subject goes, I am disinclined to be as charitable. And charity, unfortunately, is exactly what this hilarious little book requires of me: Lord Longford having taken it upon himself to set in train a sequence of events designed to process Richard Milhous Nixon through redemption to beatification and ultimately, I suppose, to canonisation, it is essential that his persecutors must first be made to see him as a martyr and recant the error of their own ways in failing to appreciate the blessedness of his ...

American Masturbation

Alan Coren, 17 July 1980

Thy Neighbour’s Wife 
by Gay Talese.
Collins, 568 pp., £7.95, June 1980, 0 00 216307 1
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... 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 ...

Alan Coren

Alan Brien, 4 December 1980

The Best of Alan Coren 
Robson, 416 pp., £7.50, October 1980, 0 86051 121 9Show More
Tissues for Men 
by Alan Coren.
Robson, 160 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 86051 116 2
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... 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 me to have one invaluable asset, its name; and one inescapable handicap, its name. The most famous long-running comic weekly in the world, it often sets me wondering whether it might not be easier to buy, or indeed write for, if it were called, say, the Hibbert Journal, or Notes and Queries, or just the Tudor Street Weekly ...


Christopher Ricks, 2 August 1984

The Faber Book of Parodies 
edited by Simon Brett.
Faber, 383 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 571 13125 5
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Lilibet: An Account in Verse of the Early Years of the Queen until the Time of her Accession 
by Her Majesty.
Blond and Briggs, 95 pp., £6.95, May 1984, 0 85634 157 6
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... and the culturalists who run this very contemporary show: Miles Kington and Russell Davies, Alan Coren and Clive James, Malcolm Bradbury and George Melly. The parodied A’s have it: Douglas Adams (hitchhiking through a galaxy of fading stars), Woody Allen, Kingsley Amis, Anon, John Aubrey, Auden and Ayckbourn. An Auden parody is called ...


Clive James, 18 March 1982

... his fame – A true wit wouldn’t hint it, much less crow it. Poor knackered Nicky thinks he’s Alan Coren: He’s just a wee laird with a twitching sporran. And yet it’s wise to give conceit expression – Within the limits set by the absurd. A boast might be self-serving like Confession But similarly festers if unheard. Much meekness stands ...

Roth, Pinter, Berlin and Me

Christopher Tayler: Clive James, 11 March 2010

The Blaze of Obscurity: The TV Years 
by Clive James.
Picador, 325 pp., £17.99, October 2009, 978 0 330 45736 1
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... imponderably temperamental, or a mixture of all three? In North Face of Soho, he describes Alan Coren as ‘the most enigmatic man of his generation, because the sprawling palace of his attainments’ – sounds familiar – doesn’t show up in his work. ‘With that kind of writing, you keep yourself to yourself. Not my thing at ...

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