This Is Not a Novel To Be Tossed Aside Lightly. It Should Be Thrown with Great Force

Dorothy Parker? Sid Ziff? Bennett Cerf? Groucho Marx? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The most scathingly hilarious quip about a novel is credited to the famous wit Dorothy Parker who reportedly included it in a book review:

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

Unfortunately, no one seems to know when this line was written or spoken. Also, I have not been able to determine the name of the book that was being slammed. Could you explore this?

Quote Investigator: Multiple researchers have attempted to locate this joke in the writings of Dorothy Parker and have been unsuccessful.

QI has not yet identified the creator of this comical barb, but QI believes that the most likely target of the mockery was titled “To You I Tell It” by Bill Miller who was a boxing publicist and newspaper columnist. In 1929 Miller collected material from his columns and published it in book form. His work was not universally panned; instead, it initially received praise from colleagues.

In November 1929 the famous journalist and tale-spinner Damon Runyon complimented it by saying, “There is plenty of bang in the little volume.”[1] 1929 November 30, Allentown Morning Call, Damon Runyon Rambles Along by Damon Runyon, Quote Page 18, Column 2, Allentown, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com) In December 1929 boxing columnist Marty J. Berg also published a positive remark, “His book, a 250 page affair, is positively hilarious from cover to cover.” [2] 1929 December 4, The Evening News, Breezy Bits O’ Boxing by Marty J. Berg, Quote Page 17, Column 7, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)

Almost three decades later in 1958, Miller’s book was mentioned by Sid Ziff who wrote “The Inside Track” column in the “Mirror News” of Los Angeles, California. Ziff stated that the clever insult under examination was aimed at the book by an unnamed reviewer. The ellipsis appeared in Ziff’s text. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[3] 1958 December 18, Mirror News, The Inside Track by Sid Ziff (Mirror News Sports Editor), Part 4, Quote Page 1, Column 1, Los Angeles, California. (Newspapers_com)

Miller, who contributes now and again to Inside Track, once wrote a book titled “To You I Tell It.” It received mixed reviews. One critic said: “It is not a book to be lightly thrown aside. It should be thrown with great force . . .”

The joke was rephrased and reassigned to Dorothy Parker in 1962 by publisher Bennett Cerf who enjoyed collecting and popularizing quotations. Details are given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading This Is Not a Novel To Be Tossed Aside Lightly. It Should Be Thrown with Great Force

References

References
1 1929 November 30, Allentown Morning Call, Damon Runyon Rambles Along by Damon Runyon, Quote Page 18, Column 2, Allentown, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)
2 1929 December 4, The Evening News, Breezy Bits O’ Boxing by Marty J. Berg, Quote Page 17, Column 7, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)
3 1958 December 18, Mirror News, The Inside Track by Sid Ziff (Mirror News Sports Editor), Part 4, Quote Page 1, Column 1, Los Angeles, California. (Newspapers_com)