Friday, October 5, 2012

A Salute to S. J. Perelman

Perelman was an imaginative man with a solid sense of satire.  He was a member of the Round Table, Algonquin Hotel set as well as a highly regarded Hollywood writer and playright.  Born in 1904, he died October 17,  1979.  

His specialty was to pick up a brief item in a newspaper or, more likely, a magazine and skewer it.  He read voraciously and always resented the fact that the people who wrote long novels got more praise than he did for his short pieces.

In fact, in person, he may not have been much fun.  His marriage to Laura West, (writer Nathaniel's sister) was rocky from the start due to his constant womanizing, which certainly seems doubtful given his looks, which were, to say the least, unremarkable.  A less kind observer might use the word "ugly."   

He regarded children as non-essential to his happiness and ignored his.  Son Adam spent some time in a reform school.  Perelman devoted his love to his MG (car) and his mynah bird, both of whom he pampered considerably. 

Richie is cleaning out our old books and handed me, "The Road to Miltown or Under The Spreading Atrophy."  I've been laughing ever since.   It's an excellent book to keep in the door pocket in Richie's car.  He decides to run an errand while we're out; I choose not to go in and instead settle in for some laughs with Perelman. 

"The Wickedest Woman in Larchmont" covers his introduction to and enthrallment with Theda Bara in 6th grade.  Sample:  "I accidentally got my first intimation of Miss Bara from a couple of teachers excitedly discussing her."
"If you re-arrange the letters for her name, they spell 'Arab Death'! "one of them was saying with a delicious shudder.  "I've never seen an actress kiss the way she does.  She just sort of glues herself onto a man and drains the strength out of him!"  The other replied, "I know - isn't it revolting?  Let's go see it again tonight!" 

Needless to add, I was in the theater before either of them, and my reaction was no less fervent."

He has the deft ability to put himself into a story and then going on from there.  His characters often have ridiculous names -- very Charles Dickens of him.  I'm thinking of British earl Lewellyn Fitzpoultice.  He has an awesome vocabulary.

October 17th is not that far away.  I think Perelman is deserving of remembrance from his fans so I propose Wednesday, October 17th be Perelman Satirical Salute Day, to be celebrated with a gin martini at lunch.   

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