Saturday, September 15, 2012

Quips and Quotations (Algonquin Round Table Edition)

To err is human; to forgive, infrequent

--Franklin P. Adams

Posterity is as likely to be wrong as anybody else

--Heywood Braun

A hick town is one where there is no place to go where you shouldn't go

--Alexander Woollcott

I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I'm under the table,
after four I'm under my host. 

--Dorothy Parker

Epitaph for a dead waiter - God finally caught his eye

--George S Kaufman

For a nation which has an almost evil reputation for bustle, bustle, bustle, and rush, rush, rush, we spend an enormous amount of time standing around in line in front of windows, just waiting.

--Robert Benchley (and just think, he died a good half-century before the first Apple store opened)

Razors pain you,
Rivers are damp,
Acids stain you,
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful,
Nooses give,
Gas smells awful.
You might as well live. 

--Dorothy Parker (a four-time suicide survivor)

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who think there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who don't.

--Robert Benchley

Nothing risque, nothing gained

--Alexander Woollcott (allegedly impotent due to a bad case of the mumps)
I didn't like the play, but then I saw it under adverse conditions--the curtain was up

--George S. Kaufman 


  1. random thoughts:
    the algonquin group has always ranked high in my personal pantheon of pundits (yes, i'm addicted to alliteration, even when it is inadvisable :). dorothy parker has always been a favorite. we share similar sensibilities.
    i knew the mumps could render one sterile, but impotent as well? that seems cruelly redundant.

    kirk, a wonderful gathering you've assembled.

    1. I like "personal pantheon of pundits", rraine. I'd say your use of alliteration is entirely advisable.

      I've used Dorothy Parker quotes in the past, and will again in the future. You could fill a book with her quotes. Actually, SHE may have filled a book with her quotes.

      RE: Alexander Woolcott and the mumps.

      As you may know, Woollcott inspired the play THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER. One online joker has said, in reference to Woollcott's impotence, that it really should have been called THE MAN WHO COULDN'T COME AT DINNER.

      In the 1994 movie DOROTHY PARKER AND THE VICIOUS CIRCLE, Alexander Woollcott, played by Tom McGowan, openly jokes to everyone else at the Round Table about his impotence. I haven't read much Woollcott--I think he's largely out of print; I've only come across him in anthologies of pre-WWII wits--but from what I understand his humor was usually directed toward others, not himself, so I don't find that scene entirely credible. That said, I've read a lot about that era and especially the going-ons at the Algonquin--I find the 1920s fascinating--and many of Woollcott's friends and acquaintances repeat the story about the impotence and the mumps, though they didn't do so until the 1960s, long after AW had died. They must have got the information from somewhere. The only reason I'm bringing it up is because the "risque" remark seems odd coming from a man who literally couldn't bring it up. There are other sexually charged quotes from Woollcott as well. Maybe such joking was an outlet of sorts. Also, some have suggested the mumps and impotence may have been a cover story. Who knows? Interesting man, interesting era.

    2. i've seen the movie "dorothy parker and the vicious circle", but it's been a long time. i think it's time for a rerun.
      i did some noodling around regarding mumps, sterility, etc, and the general consensus seems to be that mumps doesn't cause impotence, and only in severe cases does it cause sterility. i wonder what the real issue was with woollcott?

    3. I read somewhere that his testosterone deficiency was due to a combination of a birth defect and juvenile mumps, though I can't say how accurate that might be. His humor, like many of the Algonquin crowd, was certainly outer-directed a lot of the time, but on at least one occasion he described himself as "half woman, half eunuch." So there you go.

    4. Sounds to me like Woollcott was trying to drop a hint about himself, in a witty a manner as possible in that pre-Stonewall era, but I could be wrong. It's not like I have access to his medical records. Interesting man, nonetheless.

      Thanks for commenting, ben.

  2. Wow! Perfect Sunday post. Here's my favorite.
    By the time you swear you're his,
    Shivering and sighing,
    And he vows his passion is
    Infinite, undying -
    Lady, make a note of this:
    One of you is lying.

    1. Parker seems to have been unlucky in love, huh, Patricia? Maybe that's lucky for us as her romantic misadventures inspired such funny writing.

      If you haven't seen it already, Patricia, I recommend the movie DOROTHY PARKER AND THE VICIOUS CIRCLE. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays the title character and makes you believe what Parker herself really couldn't do through her writing (because she chose not to), that this woman with such a great sense of humor could also be suicidal.

      In the end, Parker died not by her own hand but by natural causes at the age of 73 in 1967.

  3. This is a very useful article for the readers, especially for me

    1. Robot commentary is apparently the one western value the Middle East has yet to reject.

  4. Running late. This is a very useful article for me as well Mr Abang. Never heard of the "vicious circle" so I went looking for the movie on Netflix and they suggested "Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman" I'm certain there's a tie-in there somewhere. Did find this clip on Youtube

    which has introduced me to this perverse pantheon of pundits.

    1. OK, I notice I got the name of the movie wrong. MRS PARKER and not DOROTHY. But that is indeed the movie I was referring to, Mike, and that is indeed Jennifer Jason Leigh as Mrs Dorothy Parker. I don't know if the real Parker ever recited that poem out loud at a garden party, but in that single scene, Leigh expertly shows you both the writer's wit and melancholy and how they existed side by side.

  5. @rraine--

    I imagine Woollcott was gay. I'm reluctant to say that as he's not here to defend himself. Of course, even if he was here, he shouldn't have to defend himself. I just wish he'd come up with a better excuse than mumps.