Time Together: Laughter and Reflection
been a lifelong fan of Carol. My first rebellion
against my mother was pleading to be allowed to stay
up to watch her variety show in the late 1960s and
early 1970s. Possibly I was a peculiar child but I
rather think that my finding the show so
entertaining when I was so little speaks to Carol's
talent, quality and class. She is one of those rare
comedians that can articulate human foibles well
enough to appeal to people of all ages and places.
Many skits from that show are funny on the first
viewing and equally funny on the hundredth viewing.
This book is a
series of stories and anecdotes about the people
that she worked with over three decades of actively
working in the industry on her television show and
specials, plus a few movies. There is nothing
shocking or offensive here, just a bit of teasing
together with warm regard and high praise. She views
her costars and her former husband and family as
integral to her success and portrays them
accordingly. She's refreshingly humble about her
failures, albeit there aren't many of them!
Readers too young
to remember Carol as a regular television fixture
will still enjoy reading about this period in
befriended and worked with an impressive list of
entertainment icons including Jimmy Stewart, Cary
Grant and Lucille Ball among others. Television
still had vaudevillian elements then although shows
were rarely broadcast live. The space for
improvisation and responding to audiences has since
been completely engineered out, and these stories
about working more spontaneously are really funny.
There is the added benefit of exposure to an
elegant, refined, gracious, talented and genuinely
kind lady. Carol Burnet is truly a star.
corner: Laughter in the Dark
Vladimir Nabokov's novel is both hilarious and
"Death is often the point of
life's joke," is one character's trenchant bon mot
in a novel that is itself a cruel and brilliant
extended joke. Nabokov lets us in on its punchline
straight away. In the opening lines, we're informed
that Albinus – husband, father, wealthy Berliner art
critic (and, it soon emerges, as chinless a nebbish
as they come) – abandons his wife for the pretty and
petulant teenager Margot, who dreams of money and
movie stardom. Her venality, slyness and casual
cruelty make her deliciously vile; unsurprisingly,
things do not end well. As the novel's opening
paragraph concludes, Albinus: "loved; was not loved;
and his life ended in disaster".
Nabokov's deadpan narration
charges the novel with countless blackly hilarious
moments. Rex provides many of them: Margot's first
lover, an artist and film producer, enters her and
Albinus's grasping relationship as a man whose "itch
to make fools of his fellow men amounted almost to
genius". And Albinus, naturally, is made a fool of.
Returning from his child's deathbed, he finds Margot
"supine, smoking lustily", feeling "delicious
content". Rex, Nabokov adds with glee, "had left a
short time before, well-contented too".
Written in Russian, the novel was
translated into English by Nabokov himself after he
deemed a previous effort by Winifred Roy lacking.
Extraordinarily, though, he still considered it his
worst novel. In the pairing of the girlish Margot
with the helplessly lustful Albinus, it certainly
presages the one widely considered his best. Written
23 years before Lolita, Laughter in the
Dark may not have its successor's reach and
subtlety, but it contains a final scene that is