Sunday, July 11, 2004

S.J. Perelman's "Dawn Ginsbergh's Revenge...."

And I'm one of her victims. Perelman's first book is uncommon and expensive. Despite that I have two of them. This last one cost a small fortune. So my Perelman collection has every book he ever wrote except for the notoriously "difficult" (as collectors and dealers call books that are hard to find) Strictly From Hunger and The Dream Department.

A collecting mania is hard to explain, much less to defend. But I can say that my affection for Perelman goes back a long way and he has an honored place in my book collection. Westward Ha! I first read in High School. And to this day, it makes me laugh. Hirschfeld's art work only helps the situation. My dad was a big fan as well -- to such an extent that, on his death bed, he asked me to read choice selections from the book. Seven days away from leaving this life, when most mortals who have their wits about them are busy telling their beads or ruminating upon on sacred texts, he was convulsed with laughter as I read, among other passages from Westward Ha! the following description of one of Perelman's maritime adventures on board the Marine Flyer as it carried Pereman and Hirschfeld across the South China Sea:

Mr. Fuscher...was espoused to a lady who, to put it mildly, had been richly endowed. Every time she strode on deck in the pitifully brief halter and shorts she affected, eyes popped like champagne corks and strong men sobbed aloud. It did not seem possible that mere wisps of silk could confine such voluptuous charms; in fact, there were those who lived in the hope, that a truant gust of wind might create a sensational diversion. On one occasion, I lashed myself to the brink of nervous collapse reading the same sentence over and over in Motley's Rise of the Dutch Republic desperately trying to ignore Mrs. Fuscher as she stood silhouetted against the sun in a diaphanous sports dress. I though it rather poor sportsmanship of Hirschfeld, incidently, to show her a sketch of his representing me as a wolf baying against the moon, when he himself was so patently on the prowl.

At the end of his life my dad had a small library of Judaica in his nursing home room. There was Maimonides and Buber. But there was also Perelman.

I and Thou is good. But for my dying father, Westward Ha! was better.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dad, that is extremely touching. I had no idea Grandpa Gerson knew who Perelman was. What a good son you are.

The link worked this time, so I will add "The Sensible Clef" to my favorites list. See you and Mum soon!
love, Becks

8:36 AM


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