10. Little Me, Patrick Dennis (1961)

This spoof autobiography of the ‘great star of stage, screen and television’ Belle Poitrine is another of my ‘funniest books ever written’, and I read a chapter or two whenever I’m in need of cheering up. Dennis (real name Edward Everett Tanner III) was the writer who gave the world Auntie Mame, which is very charming and sweet – but this is much better. He captures perfectly the delusional egocentricity that’s endemic in show business and the arts (and Facebook): when I was a journalist, interviewing TV stars for a living, I had many a Belle Poitrine moment. The basic joke is pretty slim: Belle has no talent but a great pair of tits, which she uses to make (and lose) several fortunes. She lies about her age, screws anything in trousers (including a butch lesbian) and regards every disaster as a triumph. Dennis elevates this into great fiction by his pitch-perfect rendering of Belle’s voice, and the icing on the cake is the wonderful photos by Cris Alexander which illustrate the text. Little Me is the book that made me into a novelist; my first book, I Must Confess, was a homage/rip-off, as you wish.

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