July 20, 1981 12:00 PM

by Clive James

“And so, as all the dancers leapt and whooped,/Lady Diana Seethrough-Spifting stooped/And gingerly picked up the shining treasure/ With what looked more like thoughtfulness than pleasure…” James, a British critic, satirist and author of a much-praised autobiography, Unreliable Memoirs, has great fun chronicling Prince Charles’ life story in 85 pages of rhyming couplets. The cast of characters includes such almost-familiar names as Prince Randy, a satyr, brother to Charles; Tony, Earl of Nikon, photographer; Christian Barnyard, a surgeon (who takes from Princess Anne and gives to Charles in a bit of vital plastic surgery); Lady Jane Wellyboot, loyal friend to Charles; Sir Robert Gordon Mensroom, prime minister of Australia; Barbra Stressband, a virago; Malcolm Mothermilk, a saint; Lady Freesia Fruitcake, a biographer…Oh, yes, Margo Hatbox is the prime minister, and Hardy Aimhigh is a tailor. The humor is as heavy-handed as the characters’ names. It’s thoroughly sophomoric and a thorough delight—a good-natured tribute to the current royal events across the Atlantic. (New York Review, $5.95)

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