David Bruce: The Funniest People in Books, Volume 2 — Autographs, Awards. Bathrooms

Autographs

• Before World War II, Lucy Carrington Wertheimer ran an art gallery that championed the work of then-modern artists. Many famous people visited the gallery and signed the guestbook. One day, Ms. Wertheimer looked at the guestbook and told her employee, “I see you have had Mr. Shaw in, Biddy.” A nearby visitor looked at the guestbook and saw that George Bernard Shaw had signed it. Amazed, he said, “Yes, and you’re jolly lucky to have his autograph. How did you manage to get it?” Biddy, an Irish lass, replied, “Oi just said to him, ‘Put your name in the visitors’ book, Mr. Shaw,’ and he put it in.” Ms. Wertheimer suspects that when Biddy said this to Mr. Shaw, “Biddy’s tone was so authoritative that Mr. Shaw did not dare say her nay.”

• George Bernard Shaw once saw a book of his own plays in a second-hand bookshop. Looking at it, he noticed an inscription in his own handwriting — “With the compliments of George Bernard Shaw” — and recognized the book as a gift from him to a friend. Mr. Shaw purchased the book, wrote this inscription — “With renewed compliments. G.B.S.” — then sent it again to his friend.

• After J.K. Rowling published the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in the United Kingdom, she went to a bookstore in Edinburgh, Scotland, to see copies of the book displayed. She was tempted to sign the copies, but she decided not to in case she got in trouble with the bookseller.

• In 1988, African-American author Maya Angelou was arrested while participating in an anti-apartheid rally in Berkeley, California. The police officer who arrested her was an African-American woman. After fingerprinting Ms. Angelou, the police officer requested her autograph.

Awards

• When Daniel Keyes’ “Flowers for Algernon” won the Hugo Award for the Best Story of 1959, award presenter Isaac Asimov praised the story enthusiastically, then asked Mr. Keyes how he had been able to write it. Mr. Keyes replied, “Listen, when you find out how I did it, let me know, will you? I want to do it again.”

• In 1986, Elie Wiesel, author of the Holocaust memoir Night, won the Nobel Peace Prize. His father, mother, and youngest sister all died in the Holocaust, but to show that the Jewish people survive despite such oppression, when giving his acceptance speech, he asked his 14-year-son to come to the podium with him.

Bathrooms

• Technology columnist and author Annalee Newitz thinks that all single-toilet bathrooms in the workplace ought to be gender-free; after all, why should someone have to walk down the hall or to another floor to go to the bathroom when a nearby single-toilet bathroom is unoccupied? She used to print a “Carbon-based lifeforms only” sign and use it to cover up the gender sign on a single-toilet bathroom near her office at work. Her co-workers thought the sign was funny.

• When he was a child growing up in Australia in the days before indoor plumbing, critic Clive James enjoyed reading, and he sometimes read in the outdoor lavatory with the door open to admit light. Unfortunately, a neighbor girl saw him with his pants around his ankles, and she told everybody, including far-distant pen pals, about what she had seen. Many years later, and many miles away, a grown-up Mr. James met a stranger at a party who knew all there was to know about the mishap.

• Author Peg Bracken knows a friend who was bothered by someone who enjoyed snooping in other people’s bathroom cabinets. Therefore, before this particular person came to snoop — er, visit — she placed this sign in her bathroom cabinet: “What is it that you’re looking for? Just let me know, and I’ll be glad to help you find it.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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