Bred Any Good Rooks Lately by James Charlton, illustrations by Mary Kornblum (Doubleday: $4.95, paperback)
Wordplay works better off tongue than on paper: the pun or Spoonerism or deliberate malapropism is more fun when ad libbed than when put to print.
So James Charlton may have been hit by a blighter's rock after he threw a challenge at nearly four dozen authors of respectable reputation and asked them to create short stories ending in one of the tortured forms of wordplay. Even he admits, "Many of these stories depend on being read aloud."
The trouble is the trouble taken and the refrain is plain, humor falling mainly in the strain. None of the entries quite matches the glory of Ogden Nash commenting in double doggerel on being meticulous about treating birds and apes--leaving no tern unstoned, no stern untoned. No one reaches the rabbi who reviewed "Portnoy's Complaint" and wondered, "What Hath Roth Got?" Nor is there the equal of the chauvinistic Texas sports reporter who announced from ringside that "the wrestlers are native tonight."