Thursday, December 01, 2005

A must-have book

excerpted at the Guardian, Simon Hoggart's The Hamster That Loved Puccini: The Seven Modern Sins of Christmas Round-Robin Letters (only available in the UK, it seems--perhaps these are a more extensively British phenomenon than American?).

Under the heading "Bad Taste Boasting" (actually, EVERY round robin letter has a paragraph like this, it's not even that extreme):

Family news? Aelred is training to be a magistrate; Ailish, still part-time at the special-needs school, is dearly loved by the teenagers; Crispin does extramural police work in London; Cordelia (hons degree, Warwick) has also switched tracks and is training to teach ballet, Araminta continues with top grades in classics at London Uni; Roberta continues to make her own stunning 'designer' clothes for a hobby (wish I was her size, for discards!), Millie continues to hold down demanding jobs in the office and with the family; Tom is following music interests - hoping eventually to be in a group - Stu, now 13, greatly enjoying his drum kit. Hope the neighbours appreciate his style!

And "Mad Menageries":

Those who knew my late brother, Eric, who died in 1998, may be interested to know that his last remaining asset, the spare head for his flute, which had lain in a wind instrument shop near Waterloo for about four years, was finally sold for £410. In January 2002 Francis visited the museum of musical instruments in Oxford to make sure his flute, which he had donated, was actually there. It was an unusual instrument, having been adapted by him, whereby his thumb took the place of his index finger, which he lost in an industrial accident.

I think the second one is rather charming. The main conclusion to be drawn (other than that people should avoid writing and sending these at all costs) is that the coy exclamation point drives the nail into the coffin of round-robin prose style. A lesson to us all.

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