Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Oxford Book of Parodies edited by John Gross

The Oxford Book of Parodies edited by John Gross is what it says on the tin. A collection of parodies, edited by the late John Gross and published by the Oxford University Press.

Nobody is safe from the mordant wit of the satirical parodist! There are well in excess of 120 victims,if one can use that word in this context. The parodied range from Geoffrey Chaucer to John Dryden, from Swift to Lord Chesterfield, from Wordsworth to Cobbett and in more recent times from Clive James to J. K. Rowling and from Amis (that's Martin, not Kingsley) to Leonard Cohen.

Who are the parodists? old hands at the genre like the irrepressible Sellar and Yeatman, with their witty and well-educated parodies of history teaching (1066 and All That) appear in the book as do others who might not be so well-known. There is a parody of Virginia Woolf by Mark Crick, in which he imagines how she would have handled a recipe for a dish involving black cherries and a parody by J. C. Squire of a poem in the style of G. K. Chesterton.

Some of the parodies are splendid and really do capture, but in a slightly warped form, the true essence of the subject who is being parodied, yet some seem to miss the mark and in some instances quite badly, too. The parody of Chesterton by Squire sadly falls into the latter category. 

The book is in two parts, part one starting with Anglo-Saxon and Medieval. Ezra Pound's take on Summer is Icumen In is worthy, although perhaps slightly too long, whilst Murie Song by A. Y. Campbell based on the same song is, to be honest, appallingly bad, especially when one considers that he was a poet in his own right!

Part two contains a collection of nursery rhymes, ripostes, stage and screen, and so forth.

This book will keep you amused, bemused and perhaps just a tad confused for many, many hours.  It is published in paperback at £9.99 or $17.95. It is, of course, available through the That's Books book shop.

Sadly the editor of the anthology of parodies died in January of this year.

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