Picks and Pans Review: Don't Tread on Me

updated 07/27/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/27/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The Selected Letters of S.J. Perelman, edited by Prudence Crowther

Perelman's notes to friends and acquaintances were as sharply pointed, as witty, as zany as his humorous essays that once enlivened the New Yorker. So let's hear the master himself. To James Thurber: "I was particularly heartened by the theory you relayed about the reservoir of humor we're all supposed to possess. Candidly, mine seems at the moment to have shrunken to a greenish hog wallow dotted with kerosene cans and old shoes." To novelist Raymond Chandler: "...am saving up for a lush secretary, something about 5'7" with a capacious bosom who'd be willing to sit on my lap and keep my mind off sex." To E.B. White: "We bivouacked at Hanover and spent some time with Jerry and Claire Salinger. Jerry's in fine shape (though looking a little hunted because of those acolytes who steal up his mountain in their bare feet to get The Word)..." ("Jerry" is J.D. to most of us.) To journalist Israel Shenker: "Currently the wiseacres of the Hong Kong press corps are convulsed with giggles that an old Jewish upstart believes he can get into China with a vehicle almost as old as himself, but I say to them, 'They all laughed at Jean-Jacques Rousseau when he said man was perfectible, yet today we have people like Jody Powell.' " And to Groucho Marx: "Well, cuddles, my best to yourself and all the pretty girls on the bridle path..." Every page has a gem. (Viking, $19.95)

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