Alan Coren was a terribly, terribly popular writer. I use the phrase terribly, terribly because that's how he wrote. A one-time editor of Punch, he subscribed to the why-use-one-word-when-twelve-will-do school of British prose. He's the anti-Hemingway.
Nowadays, most editors would put his books on a diet. Needless modifiers—adverbs in every possible clause—graced his sentences. Speaking of clauses, I once counted seven embedded inside each other. He's my hero.
So I was terribly, terribly delighted when someone gave me, with neither provocation nor payment, a kind but but not hugely generous, if one were to be honest about the circumstances, gift.
It was a hardback copy of Coren's famous book, Golfing for Cats. As you can see, the cover bears a swastika. The contents have nothing to do with golf, cats, or the Third Reich. Golfing for Cats contains a simple collection of Coren's magazine and newspaper articles.
The introduction tells us that Coren was brainstorming with his editor over a title. What kind of books became best-sellers, he asked? Books about golf, cats and Nazis, the editor replied. So, Coren reasoned, he had the perfect recipe to make a quid.
Then came the global paperback edition. It would be sold, either in English or in translation, in many places. These might include Germany or Austria, where the swastika would be in poor taste. In other places, they might not get the joke. So the mass-market paperback edition wears a different cover. With a cat. Playing golf.
History does not record whether Coren thought this made a terribly, terribly funny anecdote to tell over sherry at the club, or if he put his head in his hands, and wept.