Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pondering Perelman

Given that this blog is entitled "The Marx Brothers," it behooves the author to mention one or more of the aforesaid siblings in every post. Thus it was with great joy that I found Groucho's name appearing in the book A Writer's Eye: Collected Book Reviews by Eudora Welty, edited by Pearl Amelia McHaney. A passing reference to Groucho gives me an excuse to focus once again on the comic genius S.J. Perelman (see previous posts, S.J. Perelman and S.J. Perelman Revivisected), whose books provided fodder for three of Ms. Welty's reviews.

First, here's how Groucho was mentioned in Welty's review of The Most of S.J. Perelman, which appeared in the New York Times Book Review, October 12, 1958:
Groucho Marx, for whom, of course, Mr. Perelman has done his share of writing, seems imminent here and once appears in person; we get an intimate glimpse of him indulging "his passionate avocation, the collecting and cross-fertilization of various kinds of money."
Ms. Welty gives many other examples of Perelman's devastating humor in this review as well as in her reviews of Westward Ha! Around the World in 80 Cliches and Crazy Like a Fox. From the latter work, she gives these examples:
I may not know much about medicine, but I know what I like.

A Schrafft hostess, well over nine feet tall, with ice mantling her summit, waved me toward a door marked "Credentials."

He caught my arm in a vise-like grip but with a blow I sent him groveling. In ten minutes he was back with a basket of appetizing, fresh-picked grovels. We squeezed them and drank the piquant juice thirstily.

I had gone to the Corn Exchange Bank to exchange some corn.
I could go on and on, padding this post with Perelman lines which Ms. Weldy used to pad her reviews. Why should I bother when you can go read the reviews yourself at Google books?


  1. Ey, always bother! At least I am interested! ;)

  2. Ha! The "groveling" line is one of my favorite Perelman quotes. He was the master of the ricocheting ambiguity. Another example (paraphrased) from a collection of his letters:

    "I'm writing this with a mouth full of carpet tacks -- and you thought it was a typewriter!"