George Galloway, in speech that got him chucked out of the Commons in July 07, said being accused of improper behaviour by this government (Blair’s) was “like being accused of slouching by the Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

In Seven mag of Sun. Tel. 2.9.07, Paul Morley said of Norah Jones:

“She takes the swing out of jazz, the fire out of gospel, the pain out of country, the mood out of torch, the guts out of soul, the ache out of blues, the sting out of rock and the heart out of pop, leaving merely the pleasant in pleasant and the comfort in melody. A tourist in other people’s adventure, she interprets Tom Waits by meticulously removing all traces of creep, kick and kink, and her sterilised version of Arcade Fire’s Ocean Of Noise recalls the days when Val Doonican sang Bob Dylan.”




In a 2007 Guardian at

Adam Mars Jones tore apart Mere Anarchy, a collection of essays by Woody Allen …

Is there a more depressing category than ‘humour’? I tried to be fair to this book by not reading the pieces back to back. Such skits and squibs function in a magazine (about half of these were first printed in the New Yorker) as light relief, palate-cleansers in prose. Putting them together in a volume is a severe test of the feuilletoniste, which only the most talented can hope to survive. Even in the smallest doses, these lazy riffs and lame parodies do more to annoy than entertain.

Since at least the Victorians, writers have announced their intention to amuse with a facetious linguistic register. Why? I’ve no idea. Antimacassars are no longer in fashion, whalebone is a rarity, yet the stylistic gurning goes on. ‘Upon arriving home and perusing in secret her libellous narrative, I was rendered dumb‘ could as easily be Mr Pooter as Mr Allen. Humorous writing is where discredited words such as ‘eschew’, ‘distaff’, ‘poltroon’ and ‘matutinal’ come to die. It’s their final forwarding address.

‘Feigning Whipple’s disease, I bailed out of my work early, pausing at the corner hops emporium to placate my jangled ganglia and review the crisis.’

‘Apocryphal or not, the mollifying lore of geniuses who temporarily mortgaged their integrity gambolled around my cortex some months ago when the phone rang as I was adrift in my apartment trying to tickle from my muse a worthy theme for that big book I must one day write.’

The difference between mock-pomposity like this and the real thing is very slight, and actually works in favour of the real thing – mock-pomposity doesn’t have the excuse of being unconscious. Pomposity is a venial sin, mock-pomposity is mortal.

Linguistic contortion on this scale precludes any sort of character drawing. Is there any stylistic difference here between the person quoting and the person quoted? ‘We won’t be able to set foot at any of the posh watering holes we habituate without we’re snickered at and lampooned by wit’s cruel rapier. Velveeta refers to you as “that gnarled little pipsqueak who buys his hapless offspring into top preschools while failing to do yeoman service in the boudoir”.’

That’s Velveeta Belknap, by the way. Dear God, the comedy names. Harvey Afflatus, Paula Pessary, Moe Bottomfeeder, Mike Umlaut, E Coli Biggs, Agamemnon Wurst – the best of them sound like something found scrunched up in Groucho Marx’s wastepaper basket


More good putdowns at

Also, from somewhere, I find Margaret Cook, some time after her split from Robin Cook:

“Whenever he met a woman prepared to indulge in a little flirtation, his body language was so explicit … I think he would have gone with anyone who was sufficiently compliant and presentable.”

I bet a few men will wince at that one.


Before writing first novel, must remember Boyd Tonkin, in Independent, getting fed up with Nick Hornby imitations he summed up as a generic book called Dad’s The Comedian:

Hornby-gauge bloke grows up, sires a sprog or two, gets in touch with his feelings and mooches wryly around the DIY superstore in between serious talks with the Sensible Partner. Lots of stuff about old records, old girlfriends, and facing up to the challenge of Baby Poo.


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