“Unplugging from devices doesn’t stop us from experiencing our lives through their lenses, frames, and formats. We are only ever tourists in the land of no technology, our visas valid for a day or a week or a year, and we travel there with the same eyes and ears that we use in our digital homeland.”
It was S.J. Perelman’s birthday yesterday. A passage introducing Al Hirschfeld, with whom Perelman would go on a ’round the world tour for a magazine:
Hirschfeld left for the States that night, just before the check arrived, and I did not see him for a spell. One day in New York, I ran into him… We had a stoup of kumiss together and renewed our friendship. Whether he stole the cufflinks I missed subsequently, I would prefer not to say, but it seemed more than coincidence. Nevertheless, I am one who forgives easily, and it was hardly more than eleven years before I found myself one morning telephoning him.
“I’ve got an idea for a musical comedy, old man,” I said directly (I rarely beat about the bush). “Meet me at the Lafayette Coffee Rooms at one o’clock.” Had Hirschfeld not met me at the Lafayette Coffee Rooms at one o’clock, this might never have been written. Another thing that might never have been written, if it gives twenty-three despondent investors any comfort, was a musical comedy named Sweet Bye and Bye, which closed in Philadelphia like a ten-cent mousetrap the day this story opens.
Ogden Nash, who wrote the lyrics of Sweet Bye and Bye, Vernon Duke, the tunesmith responsible for its airs, and Hirschfeld and I, who spawned the libretto, had been sequestered in a room in the Warwick Hotel there for nineteen hours administering extreme unction to the show. At length our efforts were unavailing; as the turkey lay cold and lifeless on the operating table before us, Nash retired to his room to hang himself with a dangling participle…
I think that from now on I’ll just hand this piece out at the start of my editing classes:
I must also caution you from the outset that this course is appallingly, unrelievedly dull. A student from a previous term complained in the course evaluation that “he just did the same thing over and over day after day.” Exactly. So will you. Editing is done word by word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and we will go over texts in class, word by word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence, and paragraph by paragraph. No one will hear you scream.
I’m going to turn my back for a minute so that anyone who wants to bolt can escape.