One of the principles I’m trying to stay with in this series is to ensure that whatever I recommend is generally available; while I want to share “long tail” choices rather than “hit culture” ones, there is no point my doing so unless you can borrow it or buy it.
Recommendation 5: (Book)
The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N. The first of a pair of books by Leo Rosten, published during the late 1930s as a compendium of articles in the New Yorker. I was fourteen when I read them, and I was fascinated by the sheer talent of the then 24-year-old Rosten. He was able to make me “hear” the accents of European immigrants wrestling with the complexities of English (albeit the American kind) while adjusting to their new and exciting world.
At that point, I’d never left India myself, and my “knowledge” of the world beyond India’s borders was marginal: largely influenced by film and magazine and book, with the occasional smattering of real-live tourists. What Leo Rosten did was to conjure up the atmosphere in the English language class in a remarkable way, somehow giving me a vicarious feel for the different cultures in that classroom, the personalities, the battles, the joys and despairs.
It is rare enough for a book to be able to do this. Rarer still for one firmly placed in the “Humour” category (I cannot bring myself to spell it Humor). And even rarer for one originally written as a series of articles.
The book is easy to read, you can choose to read it stand-alone chapter by chapter, you don’t even need to read them in sequence. But if you wanted to, you could read it cover to cover in one sitting. There is some overlap with the content and style of George Mikes, another humorist I rate highly. I cannot recommend it highly enough for someone who wants to delve into the nuances of immigrant cultures in newly-adopted lands.