Alan Coren confesses that he ‘habitually photographs like Kafka’s glummer brother’. As snapped by Oscar Wilde, he might have gone on to say, possibly in a brooding daguerreotype. For this selection from his Times diary prompts the suspicion that Coren keeps in his Cricklewood attic not only his amusing journal, but also an alternative, literal, portrait of himself, in which the face grows longer even as each droll day passes.
Defying the tradition of the bottle-a-day light essayist, of the wag who beats his wife, Coren emerges as a chipper comic writer, good-humoured humorist. The only person who irritated him at all last year, apart from the tableful of sensitive, concerned guests who knew nothing of the operating specifications of unleaded fuel, appears to have been a novelist given to answering business notes across five florid sheets of foolscap. It transpired that the nameless author took care of his correspondence on a word-processor, and so it occurred to Coren that his letters were effectively compiled and indexed, pending hardback negotiations. ‘This is a bad business,’ he mutters. ‘If this catches on, nobody will write an honest letter again.’
This is po-faced from so voracious a professional chronicler, whose commonplace book appears twice weekly opposite the leaders in a national newspaper. Coren’s friends might rest easier in the knowledge that he isn’t about to recycle the contents of his out-tray, but on the other hand, you would hazard a