Picks and Pans Review: The Last Laugh

updated 07/27/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/27/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by S.J. Perelman

"Bestowing the award for the most odious person you ever knew in Hollywood isn't the sort of thing you rush into; you're faced, so to speak, with an embarrassment of riches," writes the late humorist, in fragments intended for an autobiography he never completed (he died in 1979). They come at the end of this volume of short pieces, most from the New Yorker, and they provide fresh glimpses of Nathanael West (Perelman's brother-in-law), the Marx Brothers, Dorothy Parker and others of that golden era. Perelman is the man to whom Woody Allen, the writer, owes the greatest debt; yet Perelman's prose is more dense, the ideas come faster, and often there is an ugly, bitter aftertaste. His writing is good for laughs, but Perelman was a man who suffered more than his share of life's indignities, panic and pain. (Simon and Schuster, $12.95)

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