Crack open a book on wit and you'll find MAE WEST doing her best work on the sheets.
• • The indefatigable James Geary has cobbled together a new collection: "Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists" [London: Bloomsbury, 2007]. And there's a third edition out of "Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations" [NY: Oxford University Press] edited by the late Ned Sherrin and reissued in paperback.
• • Book-belle Katherine A. Powers discussed these entertaining collections [and their usefulness as holiday gifts] in the Boston Globe.
• • Speaking of Sherrin's edition, Powers said: The book contains over 5,000 humorous aperçus, maxims, aphorisms, epigrams, snippets of repartee, blunders, and oddities arranged by topic with an index of contributors and key words. The contents include the words of lesser people as well as the great comic geniuses, among them my heroes G. K. Chesterton, Mark Twain, H. L. Mencken, W. S. Gilbert, S. J. Perelman, P. G. Wodehouse, Saki, MAE WEST, Evelyn Waugh, Gore Vidal, Tom Stoppard, Alan Bennett, and the two heaviest-hitting contributors of all, Oscar Wilde and that old wag, Anonymous.
• • Not all the entries were hammered out on a hot funny bone; some are inadvertent gems. Politicians are particularly gifted in this area: Donald Rumsfeld's parsing of knowns and unknowns is here, as is onetime Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's "I am not denying anything I did not say." Margaret Thatcher is, as in so many other areas, a mistress of the form ("We have become a grandmother"), although she has nothing on our president, who has had whole books devoted to his utterances. Strangely, however, he has only three entries in these pages, another instance of his being, in his own parlance, misunderestimated.
• • Indeed, if the book has a fault — — aside from some things striking me as not funny at all — — it is the preponderance of British entries over American ones, especially in the selections that have been drawn from the press, radio, and TV. This is the result of the editor's having been British. ...
— — excerpt — —
• • "The spirit of wit, distilled"
• • By Katherine A. Powers
• • Published in The Boston Globe
• • Published on: 16 December 2007
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • none • •