No One Is More Dangerous Than He Who Imagines Himself Pure In Heart; For His Purity, By Definition, Is Unassailable

James Baldwin? Norman Mailer? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Individuals who consider themselves to be pure in heart are unable to recognize their own flaws. This can lead to wrong-headed and disastrous actions. The prominent novelist and essayist James Baldwin once made a comparable point about benighted self-assessment. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1961 James Baldwin published an essay in “Esquire” magazine that was sharply critical of fellow author Norman Mailer. Baldwin included the following cogent remark. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

No one is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart; for his purity, by definition, is unassailable.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading No One Is More Dangerous Than He Who Imagines Himself Pure In Heart; For His Purity, By Definition, Is Unassailable

Notes:

  1. 1961 May, Esquire, The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy (The Journey of Norman Mailer) by James Baldwin, Start Page 102, Quote Page 105, Column 1, Esquire Inc., Chicago, Illinois. (Verified with scans)

Once a Newspaper Touches a Story, the Facts Are Lost Forever, Even To the Protagonists

Norman Mailer? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: U.S. journalist and best-selling novelist Norman Mailer once sardonically stated that when newspapers focus on a story the facts are lost forever; inevitably, even the participants lose track of the facts. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In June 1960 “Esquire” magazine published comments from Norman Mailer inspired by a photo essay. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

It was a dull, hot, newsless day in summer, so it made the newspapers. All too inaccurately according to the Dealers. Ten vicious juvenile delinquents beat up a cripple, went the jazz. “Hell, man, it wasn’t like that at all,” one of them said, “it was a fair rumble.” We’ll never know. Once a newspaper touches a story, the facts are lost forever, even to the protagonists.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Once a Newspaper Touches a Story, the Facts Are Lost Forever, Even To the Protagonists

Notes:

  1. 1960 June, Esquire, Brooklyn Minority Report, Photographs by Bruce Davidson; “She Thought the Russians Was Coming”, (Commentary on photographs by Norman Mailer), Start Page 129, Quote Page 137, Published by Esquire Inc., Chicago, Illinois. (Internet Archive)

Oh—You’re the Man Who Can’t Spell

Dorothy Parker? Tallulah Bankhead? Edith Gwynn? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The 1948 war novel “The Naked and the Dead” by Norman Mailer employed the euphemism “fug” (“fugged”, “fugging”) instead of the four-letter word for intercourse. According to a popular literary legend, a witty woman who was introduced to Mailer shortly after the release of the book said:

Oh! You’re the man who can’t spell.

This line has been ascribed to the actress Tallulah Bankhead and the writer Dorothy Parker. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared as a short item in the Hollywood gossip column of Edith Gwynn in April 1950. “Tallulah” was misspelled as “Talullah” in the newspaper text. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

When Talullah Bankhead was introduced to Norman Mailer, who authored “The Naked And The Dead,” she exploded, “Oh—you’re the man who can’t spell!”

This citation provides substantive evidence that the episode did occur; however, it is not definitive. Publicity agents have been known to feed fictitious stories to columnists to help their clients maintain high public profiles. Hence, it is possible that the incident did not occur.

Norman Mailer’s comments on the topic have varied. On one occasion he said it was an invented incident. On another occasion he told the prankster satirist Paul Krassner that he had uttered a harsh rejoinder.

The ascription to Dorothy Parker was probably the result of a faulty memory. Additional selected citations are given below.

Continue reading Oh—You’re the Man Who Can’t Spell

Notes:

  1. 1950 April 26, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Edith Gwynn’s Hollywood by Edith Gwynn, Quote Page 24, Column 3, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)

You Can Make a Killing in the Theater, But Not a Living

Robert Anderson? William Goodhart? Sam Taylor? Israel Horovitz? John Guare? Sherwood Anderson? Ron Dante? Norman Mailer?

Dear Quote Investigator: Trying to build a career in the entertainment industry is precarious. One play, movie, or album might be a huge and lucrative hit for an artist, but the next project might be a complete money-losing bust. The situation has been described with the following bitter-sweet expression using wordplay:

You can make a killing in this business, but you can’t make a living.

Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in a January 1966 article by playwright Robert Anderson in “The Christian Science Monitor”. The play “Tea and Sympathy” was Anderson’s first Broadway production, and it proved to be a great success that was also made into a Hollywood movie. Yet, Anderson found it difficult to recapture that triumph, and he supplemented his uneven theatrical income by writing screenplays and teaching. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

On the down-to-earth matter of money: A hit play can make a fortune (taxable!) for an author by movie sales, road tours, foreign rights, etc. But I have always felt it was too bad that you could make a killing, but not a living, in the theater. Stable, growing careers cannot be based on chance killings.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Can Make a Killing in the Theater, But Not a Living

Notes:

  1. 1966 January 31, The Christian Science Monitor, A playwright’s view: What it is like to ‘go APT’ by Robert Anderson, Quote Page 6, Column 3, Boston, Massachusetts. (ProQuest)

Whenever a Friend Succeeds, a Little Something in Me Dies

Gore Vidal? Wilfrid Sheed? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a mordant expression that reflects the corrosive nature of jealousy. Here are four versions:

1) Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.
2) Every time a friend succeeds I die a little.
3) When a friend succeeds, a small part of me dies.
4) Every time a friend succeeds, something in me dies.

This self-revelatory statement is usually attributed to the writer Gore Vidal. Could you please explore this remark?

Quote Investigator: In February 1973 the essayist Wilfrid Sheed penned an article in “The New York Times” titled “Writer as Wretch and Rat” about the vanity, rivalry, and bitterness experienced by some wordsmiths. The earliest strong match for the saying known to QI appeared in this article, but Sheed disclaimed authorship and ascribed the words to Gore Vidal. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Envy? Oh yes. Wanton. “Every time a friend succeeds I die a little.” Only a writer could have said that. In fact, I thought I’d said it myself, only to learn that Gore Vidal had beaten me to it by years — the upstart.

In September 1973 a long profile article about Gore Vidal by journalist Susan Barnes was published in “The Sunday Times Magazine” of “The Sunday Times” newspaper in London. Barnes spoke to friends of Vidal such as the prominent actress Claire Bloom. The following passage began with Bloom’s words followed by an instance of the saying spoken directly by Vidal who stated that he had written it somewhere previously: 2

“I’ve never seen the cynical side of him that comes out in public. I’ve never heard him say anything personally hurtful about any of his friends. Gore makes a great division here. I love gossip about my friends. He loves gossip about public people.”

Vidal says this is an exaggeration. “It was I who wrote: whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Whenever a Friend Succeeds, a Little Something in Me Dies

Notes:

  1. 1973 February 4, New York Times, Section: Book Review, Writer as Wretch and Rat by Wilfrid Sheed, Quote Page 2, Column 1, (ProQuest Page 324), New York. (ProQuest)
  2. 1973 September 16, The Sunday Times, Section: The Sunday Times Magazine, Behind the Face of the Gifted Bitch by Susan Barnes, (“A profile of Gore Vidal, whose latest novel, Burr, will be published early next year”), Start Page 44[S], (Quote appears in the first column on page 3 of 5 within the article), London. England. (Gale Digital Archive of The Sunday Times)