Friday, March 20, 2015

Wit


Wit

When I was really little,  I developed a simmering, and rather unfortunate,  crush on Jonathan Miller.  This is odd in and of itself, even more so for someone as young as I was.  (If you wish to know how odd, google him.)  Apparently I had seen him on some interview program and found him slightly irresistible.  This was not, I hasten to say, any type of romantic crush for I had not reached that stage of things.  No, it was, I’m quite certain, a crush on wit, that rare talent bestowed on fewer people than one might think and one that can still make me slightly weak in the knees.  I would still rather have lunch with Stephen Fry than Brad Pitt.  

For those of us who find this quality irresistible, our objects of attraction are sadly few and far between these days.  Those in the media capable of delivering the perfectly worded paragraph, or even quip, are … well… few.  The golden-edged bon mot seems to have been replaced by a ham-fisted humour awash in juvenile sensibility and designed to appeal to the greatest majority of twelve year old boys.  Not being a twelve year old boy myself, it leaves me cold, and worse, bored.

The world of books is hardly immune to this ever-increasing waste of language.  What passes for the modern day beach book takes six chapters to say what Edith Wharton managed between two perfectly crafted sentences.  So it was that I found myself surprised and utterly delighted last week when I picked up a book that had been working its way to the top of my ever-growing stack for quite a while.  “Love, Nina” is a collection of letters written by a London nanny to her sister in Leicestershire during the early 80’s when she served as the nanny to the two precocious, and charmingly witty, sons of Mary Kay Wilmers, the long-time editor of The London Review of Books.  The family lives on a street in London peppered with literary types who make frequent appearances on these pages, their comments and observances sprinkled with appropriate amounts of deliciously wicked wit.   Alan Bennett drops by for dinner most nights. (And yes, sadly,  I have a long-standing crush on him as well.)  And Jonathan Miller lives a few houses down.  

To be allowed into the private conversations of this cadre of wits brought to life by Nina Stibbe is a sheer joy.  I have laughed out loud frequently.  ( Sidenote:  Always, every time I laugh, Edward wags his tail.  This is particularly funny when it’s late at night and he’s sound asleep.  Sleep-wagging.  He did a lot of that while I was reading this book. )  
Check out “Love, Nina”.


And as for the utterly charming Alan Bennett,
 a new movie is being filmed of his play, “The Lady in the Van”. 
 Starring Dame Maggie Smith, it’s certain to be a winner.  
Be sure and read the book first!  
 Find it HERE.
and here’s the trailer for the upcoming film:


28 comments:

  1. Laughter and the sound of a PONs tail thwacking against the skirting board . Perfect.

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  2. Replies
    1. I know, I know. I did say it was unfortunate.

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  3. I picked up info on this book/writer recently ..... definitely on my read list! She has a new one available since Love, Nina that you might want to look for.

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  4. I so liked this post! I love witty humor, and you are so right; there's so little of it today in movies or television programs. This book definitely goes on my TBR list. (I went to Amazon and read a few pages and had to smile.) And I can't wait for the Maggie Smith movie. The Trailer was superb. Thanks for sharing these.

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  5. saw The Lady in the Van in the West End - can't remember how long ago - Maggie Smith was a delight!. What good news that a film is coming!

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  6. Thank you for the book recommend

    I'm experimenting with the idea that reading will clear my mind, an thus reduce the amount of whining when I have to exercise. So far, reading was a can't-put-the-book-down to exercise. :) Now, I find it easier to exercise before I start reading.
    Ditto on good news about Maggie Smith film!

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  7. Pamela, I always love to see a new post of yours on my reading list.

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  8. Didn't know about the lady in the van film Pamela - can't wait to see that. His wit is in a class of its own and I always enjoyed hearing he he let the old dear live in his garden in a van for years.

    I love the cartoon you have chosen too.

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  9. Sorry about the error, it jumped into your answer box before I had a chance to alter 'he' to 'how'

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  10. OMG, Pamela, you are so right about the complete lack of brilliant writing in the book world. I do love to read late at night, while in bed awaiting sleep, with my 2 little doggies right beside me on the bed. Lately it has been difficult to find a book I can finish. BORING. So, of course, I will take your recommendation, knowing full well that some of the humor may be lost on this girl. And, anything with Maggie Smith must be wonderful. Wonderful post, as always. xx's

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  11. Pamela, Nina Stibbe has written a novel called "Man at the Helm" which just came out. It is getting great reviews and "wit" has been mentioned repeatedly in those reviews. I can't resist a novel that promises to make me laugh, so I just bought a copy. So glad you enjoyed "Love, Nina."
    xx Sunday

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  12. Thank you for the film clip and book information - this will be on my reading list, surely.
    I wonder if you've ever read any of Barbara Pym's novels? They are wickedly funny in a lovely,subtle way. "Excellent Women", "An Unsuitable Attachment", and "Some Tame Gazelle" are among my favorites. Do read them if you haven't already - I think you would love them.
    Mary

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  13. I have read ALL of Barbara Pym's novels and appreciated every one of them. I do not think that most of the younger generation understand "wit." They think it's witty to use profanity in a comedy routine. That always gets a laugh. I don't get it. But "wit" is intelligent humor. I think Bill Bryson is witty in the books he writes. I believe it is a lost art. Dry, English humor is the best.

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  14. OH! We are so lucky to have YOU!

    My husband is the funniest, wittiest person I have ever known....lots of times he will say the funniest things...I will be the only one there....and I will think...."I have to write this down!"; and never do! And now with an iPhone...I think......"I need to tape him!"; and I never do!

    Just treasures we have and store....don't we? And aren't we lucky to be with men who keep us laughing? Treasures beyond description!!!

    And then we have the dogs; too.....an embarrassment of riches!! Yes!!!

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  15. Hahaha !! That film looks so good ! I can't wait to see it ! But I'll be sure to read the book first. Oh, I know what you mean about Stephen Fry ! I am now reading his book, Stephen Fry in America: Fifty States and the Man Who Set Out To See Them All - probably at your suggestion - and I am enjoying it immensely. Love his humor and wit !

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  16. Thank you for bringing the book and the movie to my attention! I think most of us thirst for true humor and wit!

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  17. Two witty things to anticipate - I've put a hold on Love, Nina at the library and hope that The Lady in the Van will be shown in Canada.

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  18. thank you thank you thank you!
    going out to barney's to buy both today. celebrating the first day of spring in the best way ... with english wit!
    looks like maggie is in another winner.
    she just gets better and better. i'll spare you the fine wine addition!
    stopping by here with you is like having tea at the ritz. discussion as sparkling as silver. xoxo♥

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  19. OH MY GOODNESS THANK YOU. Having harbored the same type of wit crushes over the years (two words: Dorothy Parker) I am going to follow your advice and immediately head to Barnes & N. after work to purchase. Thank you for being the ultimate go-to source for well written everything.

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  20. Pamela …. you were definitely born in London in a former life !!!!! XXXX

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  21. Thank you for the suggestion. Let's see...here are a couple for you by excellent writers with laugh out loud passages, that I can think of off the top of my head: The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille, The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell (I made the mistake of reading this on an airplane) and the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. Warning: Heavy on sailing and history, but reading Patrick O'Brian will ruin the reader for lesser writers forever. :) Now I'm off to order Nina Stibbe. xo, N.

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  22. I'm stuck on your comment about Edith Wharton~ so true!! I must agree wit is terribly attractive and why is it so rare nowadays? Thank you for the book suggestion and wishing you a beautiful week~

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  23. I read Love, Nina awhile ago and loved. I'm ready for you to make some suggestions for 'not to miss' books. I just finished "The Nightingale" and "Good Evening, Mrs. Craven". Both books were wonderful. The Nightingale is on the NYTimes best sellers list and it is my first time to read a book about life during WWII from a French point of view; always before it was the war from England.

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  24. Couldn't agree more with everything you and your readers have already said about the dearth--and death--of wit, at least in America! I am thrilled to have a plethora of new and witty books to look forward to reading! Anonymous mentioned Dorothy Parker, so let me leave you with her witty take on the arrival of spring: "Every year, back comes Spring, with nasty little birds yapping their fool heads off and the ground all mucked up with plants." — Dorothy Parker

    Warmly,
    White Rabbit

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  25. I do love wit, and am currently finding myself smiling while reading Anthony Trollope's Chronicles of Barsetshire series. He points out people's foibles quite cleverly. P.G. Wodehouse makes me smile too. The book by the nanny you suggest is one I will look for.

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  26. very informative post for me as I am always looking for new content that can help me and my knowledge grow better.

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I love to read your comments! Each and every one! Though I'm always reading your comments, I may not respond in the comment section. If you want to write me directly, you may do so at pamela@pamelaterry.net. Thank you for reading!