Friday, October 19, 2007

Alan Coren

There are certain books I read when I'm bored. Not because that's the only time I can face 'em, or because I've been keeping them ready for boredom-emergencies, but because there's something about them that bears re-reading and they've somehow become handy.

It's not always obvious why: when I was a boy it was the Piccolo Book of Codes and Ciphers. What I don't know about wrapping a strip of paper around a stick before you write a very short message on it is simply not worth knowing. I can say that with authority because nothing about wrapping a strip of paper around a stick is worth knowing.

For many years, though, my grab book has been an anthology of Alan Coren's writing. You certainly know him from television and radio, you probably know he's Victoria Coren's dad, and you've probably heard that his death was announced today. I can't find the book. I could quote you whole chapters, though I wouldn't do them justice. But I can't find it to read again.

I wasn't always 100% sure I agreed with his perspectives but the sixty-odd pieces in that book, all two- and three-pagers, made me shake so I couldn't hold the page still. I'd fight the page to keep it steady and let me read, and I'd lose. You can't go back, nothing can ever be as funny the second time, but the more I'd read it, the more the writer in me would kick in and I'd appreciate the casually artful construction, the very offhand punch he had.

There's an obit on BBC News Online.


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