Tag Archives: literary oddities

The Devil’s Dictionary: Abridgement

“Abridgement, n. A brief summary of some person’s literary work, in which those parts that tell against the convictions of the abridger are omitted for want of space.” 

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. David E. Schultz and S.J. Joshi, eds. The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2000. 

Write It Right: Body for Trunk

“Body for Trunk. The body lay here, the head there.’ The body is the entire physical person (as distinguished from the soul, or mind) and the head is a part of it. As distinguished from the head, trunk may include the limbs, but anatomically it is the torso only.”

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. Write it Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2010.

Book of Answers: Holden Caulfield’s Roommate

“What was the name of Holden Caulfield’s roommate in The Catcher in the Rye (1951)? Stradlater was the rich and conceited roommate.”

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Write It Right: Bet for Betted

“Bet for Betted. The verb to bet forms its preterite regularly, as do wet, wed, knit, quit, and others that are regularly misconjugated. It seems that we clip our short words more than we do our long.”

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. Write it Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2010.

The Algonquin Wits: Alexander Woollcott Defends Harpo Marx

“Struggling to pacify the ‘head of protocol’ at a Paris casino, after his companion Harpo Marx had distressed the gentleman with a few good-natured antics, Aleck turned to Harpo and asked, ‘How can I explain you?… There’s no French word for boob.’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.

A Rotten Reviews Omnibus: Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell

“It’s hard to believe that a lady from Kansas City with a house in the best residential section, one full-time maid, one mink coat and a Lincoln for her very own, should finish up as timorous and ephemeral as a lunar moth on the outside of a window.”

Florence Crowther, New York Times Book Review

“It is hard to imagine a creep like Bridge ever lived. If he did, so what? Connell fails to show that he has any relevance to what’s happening in America, 1969.”

Cleveland Press

Excerpted from: Barnard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.    

Write It Right: Bar for Bend

Bar for Bend. ‘Bar sinister.’ There is no such thing in heraldry as a bar sinister.

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. Write it Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2010.

Book of Answers: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

When did “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” first appear? The anti-Semitic forgery first appeared in a St. Petersburg newspaper in 1903. It purported to document the conspiracy of Judaism to take over the world. It may have been written by Czar Nicholas II’s secret police.

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Thorstein Veblen on Law Schools

“The law school belongs in the modern university no more than a school of fencing or dancing.”

Thorstein Veblen

The Higher Learning in America ch. 7 (1918)

Excerpted from: Schapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Rotten Reviews: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

[I confess that in over thirty years of trying to appreciate his work, the appeal of Raymond Carver is completely lost on me.]

“There is nothing here to appease a reader’s basic literary needs.” 

Excerpted from: Barnard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.