You May Not Be Interested in War, But War Is Interested in You

Leon Trotsky? Fannie Hurst? James Burnham? O. H. Steiner? Marshall Berman? Michael Walzer? Donald Barthelme? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Several sayings have employed the following templates:

(1) You may not be interested in X, but X is interested in you.
(2) We may not be interested in X, but X is interested in us.
(3) They may not be interested in X, but X is interested in them.
(4) I may not be interested in X, but X is interested in me.

Various terms have been substituted for X including war, politics, dialectics, strategy, and absurdity. I am interested in the version using the word “war” which has often been attributed to the revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky who was assassinated in August 1940. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match using “war” located by QI appeared in the “Cleveland Plain Dealer” of Ohio in 1941. The popular author Fannie Hurst used the expression while addressing a “Freedom Day” rally in Cleveland. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“We may not be interested in this war, but it is interested in us. I’m not trying to sell it to you, but no one can evade the fact that we are in the path of the storm. We dare not be disunited when liberty, the most precious jewel in our national strongbox, is at stake.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You May Not Be Interested in War, But War Is Interested in You

Notes:

  1. 1941 November 17, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6,000 Here Assail Hostage Slayings (Continuation title: 6,000 Hit Strikes In Freedom Rally) by George Z. Griswold, Start Page 1, Quote Page 4, Column 5, Cleveland, Ohio. (GenealogyBank)

You May Not Be Interested in Absurdity, But Absurdity Is Interested in You

Donald Barthelme? Fannie Hurst? Gore Vidal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A wide variety of sayings have employed the following template:

You may not be interested in X, but X is interested in you.

Different terms have been substituted for X including: war, politics, dialectic, and strategy. In addition, variant templates have occurred:

We may not be interested in X, but X is interested in us.

I am interested in a version used by the postmodern storyteller Donald Barthelme with the word “absurdity”. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1963 Donald Barthelme published the short story “A Shower of Gold” in “The New Yorker”. The character Mr. Peterson applied to appear on a television show called “Who Am I?”, and he was interviewed by Miss Arbor. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“What I want to know now, Mr. Peterson, is this: are you interested in absurdity?”

“Miss Arbor,” he said, “to tell you the truth, I don’t know. I’m not sure I believe in it.”

“Oh, Mr. Peterson!” Miss Arbor said, shocked. “Don’t say that! You’ll be …”

“Punished?” Peterson suggested.

“You may not be interested in absurdity,” she said firmly, “but absurdity is interested in you.”

As the story progressed Peterson changed his viewpoint: 2

I was wrong, Peterson thought, the world is absurd. The absurdity is punishing me for not believing in it. I affirm the absurdity. On the other hand, absurdity is itself absurd.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You May Not Be Interested in Absurdity, But Absurdity Is Interested in You

Notes:

  1. 1963 November 12, The New Yorker, A Shower of Gold by Donald Barthelme, Start Page 33, Quote Page 33, Column 2, The New Yorker Magazine Inc., New York. (Scans at newyorker.com; accessed July 28, 2021)
  2. 1963 November 12, The New Yorker, A Shower of Gold by Donald Barthelme, Start Page 33, Quote Page 37, Column 1, The New Yorker Magazine Inc., New York. (Online New Yorker archive at newyorker.com; accessed July 28, 2021)

I Never Liked the Men I Loved, and Never Loved the Men I Liked

Fanny Brice? Fannie Hurst? Norman Katkov? Ray Stark? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Falling in love with someone occurs because of unconstrained desires and emotions. The decision is not based on clearsighted logic and rationality. In retrospect, an infatuation might seem foolish or destructive. An unhappy humorist once commented on this behavior. Here are two versions:

  • I never liked the men I loved, and never loved the men I liked.
  • I never liked the man I loved, and never loved the man I liked.

These statements illustrate antimetabole, the elegant repetition of clauses containing transposed words. Would you please tell me who deserves credit for this saying?

Quote Investigator: Fanny Brice was a popular comedienne, singer, and actress who died in 1951. In 1953 journalist and scriptwriter Norman Katkov published a biography titled “The Fabulous Fanny”. Brice’s three marriages ended in divorce. Her second husband was a gambler who served time in prison. The following excerpt presented her thoughts on love. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“When you’re young,” she continued, “you make pictures in your head, you have ideas. You pick the type guy you want. But if I went to a party, and there was one no-good bastard in the room, I’d go for him right away. It’s so funny: for my friends I must have admiration and I must respect them. In fact, I never liked the men I loved, and never loved the men I liked.”

The book was based on many hours of recordings made by Brice in 1951 for a future memoir. This plan was derailed by the comedienne’s death in 1953, and Katkov was commissioned to create an authorized biography. 2 The accuracy of this quotation depends on the veracity of Katkov. Several later instances of this quotation can be traced back to this book.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Never Liked the Men I Loved, and Never Loved the Men I Liked

Notes:

  1. 1953, The Fabulous Fanny: The Story of Fanny Brice by Norman Katkov, Chapter 7: Nick Arnstein, Quote Page 89, Alfred A. Knopf, New York. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1968 September 15, The New York Times, ‘Come On, Let’s Stop a Minute To See Snooks’ by Ray Stark, Quote Page D15, New York. (ProQuest)

A Woman Has To Be Twice as Good as a Man To Go Half as Far

Fannie Hurst? Joan Lowell? Jack Lewis? Lewis Browne? Myrtelle L. Gunsul? Lilias F. Evans? Anna Judge Vetters Levy? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Fannie Hurst was popular novelist who was born in 1885. She believed that women faced greater obstacles to professional success than men. Apparently, she employed the following expression:

A woman must be twice as good as a man to get half as far.

Do you know whether she coined this remark? Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: Fannie Hurst did help to popularize this statement by using it on multiple occasions. For example, in 1943 she attended the National Conference of Women sponsored by “The New York Times” and said the following. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Fannie Hurst, novelist, deplored comparative lack of leadership that women have shown through past ages. “Our much vaunted strength is largely wordage,” she said. “A woman still has to be twice as good as a man in order to get half as far.”

Yet, Hurst did not craft this saying; it was already in circulation. Interestingly, in 1927 an analogous expression was applied to black boxers by a promoter who was quoted in a Nebraska newspaper: 2

All of which leads Genial Jack Lewis to remark, with justification, that a Negro pug must be twice as good as a white fist-fighter to get half as far.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Woman Has To Be Twice as Good as a Man To Go Half as Far

Notes:

  1. 1943 April 27, Miami Daily News, Women Will Have New World Status by Beth Blair, Quote Page 11A, Column 5, Miami, Florida. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1927 April 21, The Omaha World-Herald, Section: Sports, The Sportolog by Frederick Ware, Quote Page 3, Column 1, Omaha, Nebraska. (GenealogyBank)