The Dubious Privilege of a Freelance Writer Is He’s Given the Freedom To Starve Anywhere

S. J. Perelman? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A major shift in the U.S. labor market has been occurring in recent years. The emerging system has been called the gig economy or the freelance economy. Self-employed temporary workers perform tasks for agreed-upon payments.

Freelancing has been common in some fields for many decades. The prominent humorist S. J. Perelman who wrote numerous pieces for “The New Yorker” magazine once linked his freedom from fixed employment with the unfortunate possibility of starvation. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1970 S. J. Perelman was planning to move from the U.S. to England. He looked forward to a new life in a land that maintained a “taste for eccentricity”. A reporter for “The Washington Post” spoke to him before his departure. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Perelman said he had a rush of mail all virtually saying the same thing: “I wish I had the guts to do what you’re doing. It doesn’t take guts. The dubious privilege of a freelance writer is he’s given the freedom to starve anywhere.

Perelman’s stay in England was not lengthy; he returned to the U.S. after a few years and died in 1979.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Dubious Privilege of a Freelance Writer Is He’s Given the Freedom To Starve Anywhere

Notes:

  1. 1970 October 18, The Washington Post, Section: Style, Perelman’s Rasping Wit Becomes an Anglo-File by Myra MacPherson, Start Page E1, Quote Page E4, Column 2, Washington, D.C. (ProQuest)