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)

Book Blurb: I Was Convulsed with Laughter

Groucho Marx? S. J. Perelman? Apocryphal?

grouchodawn08Dear Quote Investigator: Groucho Marx was once asked to write a blurb for a book written by a friend. The result was this hilarious evaluation:

From the moment I picked up your book until I put it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.

Was this really written by Marx? What was the name of the book under review?

Quote Investigator: In October 1929 “The Greeley Daily Tribune” of Greeley, Colorado printed an article about books that had been recently received by the local library. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

“Dawn Ginsbergh’s Revenge,” by S. J. Perelman is humor personified. Groucho Marx says of it, “From the moment I picked up your book until I put it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.”

In November 1929 the powerful syndicated columnist Walter Winchell also mentioned humorist Perelman’s newly published book. The following version of the comment ascribed to Marx was slightly different: the phrase “picked up your book” was replaced by “picked it up”: 2

S. J. Perelman, one of the more comical comedians on Judge, has written a book christened, “Dawn Ginsbergh’s Revenge,” the words and pictures being by the master himself.

. . . Groucho Marx, of the Three Marx Brothers, has indorsed Mr. Perelman’s book in this manner: “From the moment I picked it up until I put it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.”

The Google Books database contained a digital copy of “Dawn Ginsbergh’s Revenge”; however, access was restricted and only snippets were visible. Luckily, one snippet revealed the remark from Groucho Marx. QI contacted a librarian who accessed the volume and determined that parts of the dust jacket had been extracted and pasted into the book. The following message was printed on the jacket: 3

grouchonote07Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Book Blurb: I Was Convulsed with Laughter

Notes:

  1. 1929 October 7, The Greeley Daily Tribune (and The Greeley Republican), New Books Received by Greeley Library, Page 10, Column 3, Greeley, Colorado. (NewspaperArchive)
  2. 1929 November 20, The Scranton Republican, Walter Winchell On Broadway, Quote Page 5, Column 4 and 5, Scranton, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)
  3. Database: Google Books, Book Title: Dawn Ginsbergh’s Revenge, Book Author: Sidney Joseph Perelman, Year: 1929, Page Number: i (dustjacket), Access Restriction: Only snippets are visible, Database description: Electronic page scans of millions of books from major research libraries. (Accessed books.google.com on January 27, 2015) link