It's difficult to express how much of a joy this collection of works from the long career of Alan Coren's is because any kind of superlative prose can only seem inadequate when compared to writing of this artfulness and quality. Suffice it to say that some of these pieces are laugh-out-loud funny, many of them you just feel the need to read out loud to whoever is within earshot just so you can share their brilliance and sheer exuberant eloquence, and pretty much all of them will leave you in a pleasantly thoughtful frame of mind.
I did find that I preferred the later shorter pieces, probably as they overlapped more with events in my own lifetime, and it seemed that age did not wither that amazing wit. When Mr Coren got older he got sharper, pithier and funnier. It's all just so amazingly well written that sometimes you can't believe quite how good it is. The targets - both big and small - are dealt with an inimitable stylishness that seems effortless but comes from someone who was truly an expert at what he did. Some of my personal favourites are about the absurdities of suburban living - like over-ambitious dinner party menus, over-competitive bridge partners, or the sheer over-optimistic hopefulness involved in just trying to make it to the theatre on time - but there's so much more to this collection than that and so many more topics that are touched upon that you're bound to find something to enjoy here.
85 pieces from across over four decades of writing cannot but scratch the surface of the imaginings of this master wordsmith, but this selection does make for a very enjoyable read. Introductions to the various decades from Melvyn Bragg, Victoria Wood, Clive James, A. A. Gill and Stephen Fry show the quality of his fans and influence. His (rather fabulous) offspring, Giles and Victoria, also pitch in with a fondly observed introduction perhaps proving, at the very least, that genius might just have something of the genetic about it.