Picks and Pans Review: The Portable Curmudgeon

UPDATED 01/18/1988 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/18/1988 at 01:00 AM EST

Compiled by Jon Winokur

Here's just the thing to have handy when it's time to find a quote to spice up a nasty letter to the IRS or the neighbor down the street with the big dog. It is a compendium of cynicism and artfully snarly insults, amassed by a man who, a jacket blurb notes, has "been in a bad mood since 1971." (He is probably well known for this, though he also edits the Writers on Writing series.) Winokur includes brief profiles of the more famous curmudgeons, but the book's tastefully sour essence is its array of quotes, an embarrassment of bitches if ever there was one. From H.L. Mencken: "A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin." From Voltaire: "England has 42 religions and only two sauces." From Karl Kraus (an Austrian satirist who was a friend of Freud's): "Most people are sick. But only few know that this is something they can be proud of. These are the psychoanalysts." From George Bernard Shaw: "Virtue is insufficient temptation." From playwright Wilson Mizner: "I hate careless flattery, the kind that exhausts you in your effort to believe it." From Fred Allen: "Imitation is the sincerest form of television." From Otto Preminger (on Marilyn Monroe): "A vacuum with nipples." From John Barrymore (on sex): "The thing that takes up the least amount of time and causes the most amount of trouble." From W.C. Fields: "Anyone who hates dogs and loves whiskey can't be all bad." From Mark Twain: "In our country, we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and the prudence never to practice either." From Dorothy Parker (on Katharine Hepburn): "She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B." From playwright John Osborne: "Asking a working writer what he feels about critics is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs." (NAL, $15.95)

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