The sharp sell-off came after S&P Global, the company behind the S&P 500 index of top US companies, passed over Tesla for inclusion in the index – a move that had been expected to give Tesla’s share price another boost as index-fund investors added the stock to their portfolios. Etsy, the online marketplace for homemade products was a winner, gaining a place in the index.
At Freddie’s by Penelope FitzgeraldChosen by David Nicholls
So many of my early reading memories involve hysterical laughter. There was Adrian Mole, of course, and teclado tfue Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Monty Python books, Woody Allen’s Without Feathers, Geoffrey Willans’s How to Be Topp, Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall. Books were prized for being shocking or funny or, even better, both, and the promise that a book would make the reader “laugh out loud” seemed entirely plausible. Why not? It happened all the time.
Less so now perhaps, but a book that consistently makes me laugh is Penelope Fitzgerald’s At Freddie’s, a comic masterpiece from 1982 that really should be better known. It’s set in the early 60s, in a shabby, crumbling stage school in Covent Garden, full of terrifyingly precocious child actors and inept, downtrodden teachers, all presided over by the infamous Frieda “Freddie” Wentworth. Manipulative, enigmatic, sharp-tongued, opinionated, she’s an extraordinary comic creation; imagine Miss Jean Brodie played by Alastair Sim.
* Bridget Christie’s A Book for Her is published by Arrow.
The Jeeves series by PG Wodehouse
Chosen by Sebastian Faulks
The only book that’s ever literally made me fall out of bed laughing is Towards the End of the Morning by Michael Frayn. I read it when I was about 26 and working on an old Fleet Street newspaper very like the one described in the novel. The passage that inflicted lifelong lumbar spine damage was old Eddie Moulton’s swansong, in which he remembers the great journalists of the past. One day, I really must get round to suing the author for all my osteopath bills.
Before that, The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis made me snort, shudder and chortle with embarrassed glee. It took the narcissistic young man’s comic novel to such new heights that it essentially killed off the genre – for which, many thanks. Also for “I … waved, with sinister, beckoning motions” and all that.
Terry Wogan read the Gussie Fink-Nottle prize-giving speech at Cheltenham – you could hear the laughter in Birmingham
Sebastian FauksAnd earliest of all were PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories. I have never been able to tune in to Lord Emsworth, but the Jeeves-Wooster relationship has a tensely comic energy. A few years ago, I heard Terry Wogan read the famous Gussie Fink-Nottle prize-giving speech to a large audience at the Cheltenham festival. They say you could hear the laughter in Birmingham.
The commission claims that for four years its inspectors have been trying to verify how much material is in the pond so that the UK can be seen to have complied with the non-proliferation treaty, which specifies that the material must not be diverted for bomb-making.
As you may have deduced, I am on the phone to Moody’s Investors Service. Along with Fitch, and Standard & Poor’s (S&P), Moody’s are one of the Big Three credit ratings agencies. They sound like a trio of preppy clothing companies, but in fact they are some of the most powerful players in world finance. Specifically, they rate the “creditworthiness” of companies and currencies. In the process, it is hoped that they give investors an idea which investments are safest to make.
Ishiba defeated Abe in the first round of an LDP presidential election in 2012 thanks to strong grassroots support, but lost in the second round when only MPs could vote. He lost heavily to Abe in a 2018 party leadership contest.
As chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga has faithfully communicated Abe’s message, on everything from economic policy to North Korean missile tests and the country’s faltering response to the coronavirus pandemic.
But in many other areas of the financial system, the agencies still wield tremendous power – power that many believe needs more regulation. “The obvious solution would be to take this public service into public hands,” Aditya Chakrabortty has argued in these pages. “Let’s have a ratings agency run by the UN, funded by pooled contributions from both lenders and borrowers … Let’s make the ratings business a utility, rather than a semi-cartel that intimidates elected politicians and rakes in excess profits. It’s time to break up the bullying double-act.”
* David Lodge’s The Man Who Wouldn’t Get Up and Other Stories is published by Vintage.
The Just William books by Richmal Crompton
Chosen by Deborah Moggach
There’s a snobbishness in our literary world that equates laughter with shallowness. How untrue that is. There’s nothing shallow about my favourite comic writers – Nora Ephron, Nancy Mitford, Beryl Bainbridge (her description of undignified middle-aged sex in Injury Time strangely lingers). But for me, and I suspect many others, the funniest books of all time are the Just William books.
I suppose they’re for children, and I got hooked on them when I was William’s age, 11, but I still turn to them when I need a rush of joy. It’s a comfort just knowing they’re sitting on my shelves, shabby in their disintegrating jackets, waiting to welcome me back into the world of William, his fellow Outlaws and his suburban family of anxious mother, remote father and mad spinster aunts.
‘Great comedy isn’t heartless – far from it. When we laugh at its protagonists, we also laugh at ourselves’
Deborah MoggachRichmal Crompton was a peerless writer who understood that the basis for comedy is the disconnect between how we see ourselves and how others see us. William’s older brother Robert considers himself to be a suave man about town but what we see is a hapless and humourless young chap, struggling to maintain his dignity, whose efforts to engage with the opposite sex are constantly sabotaged by his infuriating little sibling. Ditto Ethel, the vain and beautiful older sister, who also comes a cropper through William’s often well-meaning efforts to help her or, more often, get himself out of a scrape.
And the most important thing is that we mind about them. Great comedy isn’t heartless – far from it. When we laugh at its protagonists, we also laugh at ourselves. I’m 68, but there’s still a part of me who’s an 11-year-old crashing around the countryside, unwittingly causing mayhem from often the best intentions.