David Bruce: The Funniest People in Books, Volume 3 — Mishaps, Money


• As you would expect, children’s author/illustrator Shel Silverstein, creator of The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends, had some interesting experiences. While Mr. Silverstein worked for The Torch, the monthly school newspaper of Roosevelt University in Chicago, his boss once paid him not with money, but with a typewriter. And while he served in the Army during the Korean Way, he once got in trouble with his superior officers because the socks he was wearing with his uniform weren’t regulation issue — they were argyle.

• An amusing error appears in Alexander Theroux’s short biography of Edward Gorey, printed by Fantagraphics. At the bottom of p. 14, Mr. Theroux writes that Mr. Gorey “never sent thank-you notes.” However, at the top of the page appears a reproduction of a short note that Mr. Gorey sent to Mr. Theroux. The note says in part, “Thank you so much for the neat skull.”

• Many journalists keep copies of embarrassing typos and bloopers in headlines and stories. For example, a society editor wrote a story following the wedding of two socially prominent people in her town. The groom’s name was “Cockburns,” and this headline appeared above her story: “Cockburns off on Wedding Trip.”

• John Steinbeck once lost an important manuscript: that of the stories that made up his book The Red Pony. No problem. He sat down and rewrote the book. When he later discovered the original manuscript, he compared it with his rewrite and discovered that except for seven words, the manuscripts were exactly the same.

• Mishaps occur even in the lives of famous authors. Poet Arnold Adoff, author of Eats and Chocolate Dreams, was once eating peanut butter while writing at a typewriter. He was careless, he got peanut butter in the typewriter, and he was forced to hire a repairman to fix the problem.


• When Robert Fisk, investigative journalist for The Independent in Britain, discovered that a biography titled Saddam Hussein: From Birth to Martyrdom was selling well in Egypt, he decided to investigate. Why? Because displayed on the biography’s book cover and title page were the words “by Robert Fisk,” although he had not written the book. He used his Sherlock Holmesian skills to track the forger to a bookstore where the forger had worked, although apparently the forger no longer worked there. Mr. Fisk bought a copy of the biography for 30 Egyptian pounds, then he produced his ID and told the bookstore proprietor that he was Robert Fisk and that he had not written the book. He then asked how many copies of the book the bookstore proprietor — who called himself “Mahmoud” — had sold. Mahmoud replied, “At least 100 so far.” Mr. Fisk then said, “So you owe me 3,000 Egyptian pounds!” Unfortunately, this reply came back: “But, no, Mr. Robert, we don’t owe you this — because you have just told me you didn’t write this book. How can we pay you for a book you did not write?”

• Jane Rule is the author of Desert of the Heart, her pro-lesbian novel an English publishing house released in 1964. In publishing the novel, Ms. Rule did not use a pseudonym — a rarity at the time. In 2005, she was living on Galliano Island, a British Columbia Gulf Island where she ran a small mortgage and loan company in a community where most residents were accustomed to a cash-only economy. She said that she spent her time “often bailing out kids who’re in trouble and finding mortgages for people whom the banks wouldn’t touch. I think a good many of them are growing pot.” Of course, growing pot can be problematic if a pot grower who owes you money gets arrested. Therefore, she jokes, “I said to the cop, ‘Don’t you bust anybody until you check to see whether I have their mortgage or not!’” This job did have an advantage for a writer: “You learn a lot about people when they need money.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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