The Penguin Book of British Comic Stories

Patricia Craig, Editor
Patricia Craig, Editor Viking Books $24.95 (544p) ISBN 978-0-670-82872-2
Reviewed on: 03/04/1991
Release date: 03/01/1991
Paperback - 544 pages - 978-0-14-012292-3
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A real treat for the short fiction connoisseur, this hefty volume boasts 42 stories by some of the top names from across the Atlantic: Kingsley Amis, Muriel Spark, Elizabeth Bowen, Graham Greene, P. G. Wodehouse, Fay Weldon, Beryl Bainbridge and Julian Barnes, to name just a few of the authors represented. Despite the collection's title, what these tales have in common is not easy to specify. Editor Craig tries hard to fit them all into some sort of consistent pattern, and her introduction is a marvel of ingenuity, but ultimately she fails. The only possible generalization about the English style of humor represented here is that it is strong in irony and aplomb. And naturally social situations and matters of class are common themes. It's a wonderfully entertaining collection, with remarkably few duds; moreover, most of the tales will be new to American readers. Particular favorites are Rudyard Kipling's school story, ``The Last Term''; Evelyn Waugh's splendidly acerbic Basil Seal yarn; William Trevor's agonizing cocktail party encounter,``Raymond Bamber and Mrs Fitch''; and a particularly wry genre piece by V.S. Naipaul called ``The Night Watchman's Occurrence Book.'' But it's an ideal volume for browsing; you can hardly go wrong. (Mar.)
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