Sunday, March 18, 2018

Book of the Day: The British Thurber

Paul Jennings, Oddly Enough (Macmillan, 1st US printing, 1954). Hardcover, unclipped dustjacket, 175 pp. Light blue cloth boards cover with quarter-bound navy spine and edging. Debossed cover caricature of Jennings contemplating a bunch of grapes. Silver spine titling.  Other than slight chipping to the top and bottom of the dust jacket, a very good copy. HBB price: $25.

An accidental writer, Paul Francis Jennings (1918-1989) published his first piece, “Moses Was a Sanitary Engineer” during World War II and did turns in a government information office and an ad agency before becoming a fortnightly humor columnist for The Observer in 1949. His 700-word whimsies fell into the range of James Thurber/Robert Benchley-style humor: the bemused observer of a rather baffling, silly world and the language people use to get through it.

Jennings and Thurber actually had a mutual admiration society, a meeting of which Thurber described in a 1955 New Yorker account of a Jennings dinner party, “The Moribundant Life, Or, With Whom To Grow Old” (later collected in Alarms & Diversions, (1957).

Oddly Enough was the first of nineteen collections of Jennings columns; he wrote and/or edited another eighteen books, and published occasional pieces in all the leading UK magazines and papers throughout his five-decade career.

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