The Portable Curmudgeon (Anglais) Broché – 1 octobre 1992
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Sometimes just acknowledging the cranky, bilious soul is more effective than drowning it in bland sweetisms. This book recognizes your (or someone else's) bad self, and implicitly encourages you to go with it. Perhaps it's the mix that makes us more human.
This very funny collection of sarcastic, witty, cynical, caustic, and sometimes just downright... quotes will "speak" to you like the blues. Quotes are arranged alphabetically by topic, so that you can look up "G' for gratitude, and plagiarize Rochefoucauld: "Gratitude is merely the secret hope of further favors." Cynical--of course--but perhaps containing a grain of wisdom. This topical organization doesn't work that well; the categories are too fine grained (who would think of "dinner theatre?").
The best feature are the multi-page sections devoted to one of the masters: W.C. Fields, Oscar Wilde, George S. Kaufman, Dorothy Parker, Quentin Crisp, Oscar Levant, and others. These sometimes take the form of interviews, biographies, and/or several pages of quotes. However, sprinkled liberally throughout its 299 pages are gems ("If you can't say anything good about someone, sit right here by me." -- Alice Roosevelt Longworth) by such notables as Marx (Groucho), Mencken, Bierce, and Twain and contemporaries such as Vidal, Woody Allen, and Rita Mae Brown.
Oh--in case you were wondering--it was Paul Fussell who said the following about dinner theatre:"...a way of positively guaranteeing that both food and theatre will be amateur and mediocre, which means unthreatening and therefore desirable."
To its credit, the book stays away from most sexist and all racist "jokes," it doesn't confuse humor with stupid attack. Still, you may need a thick skin for some of the acidity here. Recommended for its humor and eclecticism.
I have no idea what book the previous reviewer was reading when he talked about the author's interpretations of the quotes. I've had this book for years and went thru it tons of times; there are no interpretations. It is a bunch of quotes on topics arranged alphabetically with some selected biographies mixed in. It actually reads quite nicely.
Buy this book unless you agree with Oscar Levant..."I have given up reading books; I find it takes my mind off myself". (pg 34)
At a time when public discourse seems largely derived from the banalities of reality TV, it's reassuring to have at hand hundreds of sharp and sensible observations from curmudgeons, both classic and contemporary. And Jon Winokur's catalogue of curmudgeons also reminds us that the best curmudgeonly commentary is purposeful: its aim is to puncture pretense, to expose hypocrisy. Winokur provides illuminating profiles of some of the "greats" -- including two of my favorites, H.L. Mencken and Dorothy Parker -- letting us see the context that helped create their curmudgeonliness. The book is also sprinkled with brief but revealing interviews with successor curmudgeons, like John Simon and Calvin Trillin.
In teaching writing, I've found the quotes collected here invaluable for introducing students to such alien concepts as wit, irony, and the artful use of metaphor.
If you haven't yet become acquainted with this classic volume -- and with the eloquently testy people you meet on every page -- you're in for a treat.