Conversations with S. J. Perelman

Overview

What a pleasure this book affords! In these pages one of the delights of sophisticated conversation lives again. The interviews collected in this book comprise a treasury of wit. Perelman (1904-1979) was one of America's best writers and, undeniably, one of its wittiest talkers. His great ability to take the tired English language and make it new and shiny was perhaps his most amazing feat. For his seemingly effortless contributions to the world of humor and to an avid, exhilarated readership flourishing over six...

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Overview

What a pleasure this book affords! In these pages one of the delights of sophisticated conversation lives again. The interviews collected in this book comprise a treasury of wit. Perelman (1904-1979) was one of America's best writers and, undeniably, one of its wittiest talkers. His great ability to take the tired English language and make it new and shiny was perhaps his most amazing feat. For his seemingly effortless contributions to the world of humor and to an avid, exhilarated readership flourishing over six decades the New York Times Book Review declared him a national treasure.

Although he quipped that by profession he was "a feuilletonist, 'a maker of little leaves," in these interviews Perelman is repeatedly reminded that he is a clever genius, but he never divulges what makes him thus. Spanning his entire career, these conversations show that from the beginning he was a unique practitioner and a professional curmudgeon. He discusses his progress from youthful cartoonist to comic writer. He amuses listeners with accounts of hilarious adventures in Hollywood working with the Marx Brothers and later with Mike Todd on Around the World in Eighty Days, for which Perelman won an Academy Award for scriptwriting.

His books--Baby, It's Cold Outside, Chicken Inspector #23, The Rising Gorge, Crazy Like a Fox, and others--showed the master's touch, his play with words, and his inexhaustible store of humor. His style he characterized as "a mixture of all the trash I read as a child, all the clich├ęs, criminal slang, liberal doses of Yiddish, and some of what I learned in school from impatient teachers." But a better description was proffered by William Shawn, the editor of The New Yorker, who said, "He was a master of the English language, and no one had put the language to more stunning comic effect than he did."

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Perelman's (1904-1979) humorous books, articles, and scriptwriting earned him the description as one of America's best writers and one of its wittiest talkers. This collection of 22 interviews and articles contains a chronology, a list of works, and a short introduction by the editor. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781617033353
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
  • Publication date: 4/9/2012
  • Series: Literary Conversations Series
  • Pages: 156
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.36 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Interviewer: I'd like to ask about the frequent use of Yiddish references and expressions throughout your writing. Words like "nudnik" and "schlepp" and "tzimmas" come in frequently enough.

Perelman: Your pronunciation of "nudnik," by the way, is appalling. It's "nudnik," not "noodnik." As to why I occasionally use the words you indicate, I like them for their invective content. There are nineteen words in Yiddish that convey gradations of disparagement from a mild, fluttery helplessness to a state of downright, irreconcilable brutishness. All of them can be usefully employed to pin-point the kind of individuals I write about.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Chronology
Who Are the Perelmans? 3
Perelman Tries a Series for TV 6
Talk with the Author 8
Travel Talk 10
S. J. Perelman 12
Groucho, Perelman, and Tynan Talk about Funny Men 24
Conversations 29
S. J. Perelman's World of Whimsical Wizardry 42
That Perelman of Great Price Is 65 45
Appalled Perelman Going Eastward Ha! 56
Pun and Names with S. J. 58
S. J. Perelman Takes a Powder 63
Lumpen Doyen of Hollywood Wits 71
In the Footsteps of Phileas Fogg 77
Words and Their Masters 80
S. J. Perelman - He's America's Lampoonist Laureate 90
Interview with S. J. Perelman 94
Perelman 105
From Paris to Peking with Perelman 109
Perelman in Cloudsville 112
Interview with S. J. Perelman 117
One Kaddish, Sunny Side Up, and Hold the Lachrymae 128
Index 133
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