I have been reading the Times daily for 5 years, but it was not until Christmas of this year that I discovered one of its gems. More or less every Wednesday Alan Coren writes a witty short, either on a topic that has been in the news, some major event in his life and in his most brilliant articles a cleverly worked combination of the two. How did I discover this, well at Christmas I was given a rather charming book called the Cricklewood Tapestry, read it and wanted more. For those that do not know I live on the Cricklewood borders in North West London, so the giver of the gift thought it would be quite apt. Alan Coren! I hear you cry, yes I too thought that he was just that old duffer who appeared on Call my Bluff, with that horrible woman who looks a bit like a horse. Apologies to Alan and that woman for any offence and huge swathe of apology to Alan, as he is not an old duffer, but an incredibly, clever and wise old owl, who has a great gift for writing pertinent and witty articles. So it was with much pleasure that in my recent Amazon package, I received a book called the Cricklewood Dome, also by Alan Coren and encompassing his articles for the Times for the year 1998. So what do I think about the Cricklewood Dome, well it is written humour at its best, nothing crude, no use of expletives to get laughs, but very cleverly written and well-crafted 2-3 pages comic shorts. (No, not comic in the form of pictures, this is all writing, although the some of the shorts could be enhanced with a comic sketch, much as Boz enhanced some of Dickens' comic novels, with his sketches.) What does he write about you ask, well here is a selection, golf courses through his garden, parodies on modern TV, friendly geese stalking his garden at 3 a.m. in the morning, Bill Clinton?s politically incorrect philandering, alternative religions to relieve you of Christmas and Jeffrey Archer, more than my jobs worth councils, the problem of Ken and his m
issing genitals, the problem of low shopping pressure and the devastating effect that this has on a mans wardrobe, the problems on the future looks on the female population of the go ahead for female boxing, credit card fraud?the list goes on, but Coren links political events and news stories into his own personal anecdotes with a great skill which I assure you will make you laugh out loud. Moreover, the skill of seemingly rambling on about nothing, to suddenly coming out with a great punch line which perfectly connects the ramblings, is not an easy one and one which Mr Coren has mastered with great aplomb and the chap is also rather observant to boot. Sometimes the truth is stretched to obtain the chuckle, but the observation is there and it is distinctly acute. I suppose you want an extract, this is actually quite difficult, because to appreciate the written beauty of these shorts, you really need to read one all the way through, but if I were to copy three pages of the book, I would rather be infringing Mr Coren?s copyright, so I won?t, but here are a few small snippets. ?Never look a gift horse in the mouth. Look it in the bowels. In the bowels is where the Greeks lurk, waiting to debouch and sack.? ?I have a doppelganger. Sadly, though, I know very little about him, other than that wherever he is ganging as my doppel, he is ganging there in cheap shoes, and might also be carrying a door. Possibly a tool kit, too. Perhaps on a bicycle. This might be somewhat tricky for him should he be drunk, especially if it is windy in Hull, because managing a bicycle while carrying a tool kit in one hand and a door in another is awkward enough at the best of times, but if you have just tied on a few large ones and there are gales about?you will, I?m sure, get the picture.? Ok, so they are just two little extracts, but Coren creates a wonderful imagery in the mind of ridiculous situations, with superb writing. He also at times uses
punctuation as a form of comic timing, which is no mean feat. Not all the shorts are great, Coren is at times rather hit and miss, but it is more hit than miss and those classic shorts will have you chuckling, nodding in agreement and in awe of Coren?s huge mastery of the English language. If you want a sample without buying the book, look out for the Times on a Wednesday, have a read and hopefully see what I mean. If it is not a great one persevere, in general 1 in 4 are classics, the other 2 in 4 are well worth a read and 1 in 4, just does not do it for me. But everybody?s humour is different and those shorts that do not tickle my funny bone, may tickle yours. 35p on a Wednesday, have a sample and if you like go for one of the 6 volumes available. This one is good, but I think the Cricklewood Tapestry was of a slightly higher overall standard. Coren is far better with the written word than he is on daytime T.V. and yesterday?s piece on new labour was hilarious, whilst perhaps being a little too disturbingly accurate. Perhaps this is one of those perfect books to keep in the loo, funny and each short is just long or short enough, if you know what I mean! For the curious, the Cricklewood Dome is in fact Mr Coren?s balding head and not some off shoot of that awful Greenwich monstrosity. This volume contains 67 shorts, is 167 pages long and costs £7.99 in paperback, published by Robson Books and is available with a 20% discount from Amazon. If you want to know about the title, read the book!
A light hearted look at an alternative to the Millennium Dome.