• Bonnie Ruberg wrote about cybersex in a column for the Village Voice. After she got a Macintosh computer with a built-in camera, she took some photographs of her naked self and showed them to a male online friend, who praised her body but wrote this rather odd comment: “I really like your breasts. They look so light and fluffy.” Ms. Ruberg writes, “Light and fluffy? Those are adjectives I use to describe scrambled eggs, not breasts. … Ever since, breakfast hasn’t been quite the same.”
• Mark Twain was a true original. He lived for years in Hartford, Connecticut, whose most learned citizen was J. Hammond Trumbull. Mr. Twain was very impressed by him because he knew how to use profanity in 27 languages. By the way, while Mr. Twain was living in Hartford, he attended a baseball game at which a boy stole his umbrella. Mr. Twain offered two rewards: $5 for the umbrella, and $200 for the boy’s corpse.
• When they were children, young people’s author William Sleator and Vicky, his sister, had a sandbox in the backyard. Unfortunately, the sandbox was very attractive to cats and dogs for a very unattractive reason. One day, a lady visited and told the children, “Oh, what a lovely sand pile you two children have to play in!” Five-year-old Vicky replied, “That’s not a sand pile. It’s a sh*t pit.”
• Many, many readers have loved Anne Shirley, the outspoken young red-haired orphan who speaks her mind and comes to live with the elderly Marilla and Mathew Cuthbert on Prince Edward Island in Canada in the novel Anne of Green Gables — and in many other novels. Of course, many, many readers have sent letters to Ms. Montgomery — and to Anne Shirley. A letter that was addressed to “Miss Anne Shirley c/o Miss Marilla Cuthbert, Avonlea, P.E.I., Canada, Ontario,” made its way to Ms. Montgomery. Another letter came from Mark Twain, author of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, who told her that Anne was “the dearest and most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice [in Wonderland].”
• As you would expect, Noel Coward was witty in real life. Lawrence of Arabia once included his full Royal Air Force number at the head of a letter to him. Mr. Coward wrote back, “Dear 338171 (May I call you 338?)….” Mr. Coward also signed many letters in very friendly ways — two examples are “Love and mad mad kisses” and “Love, love, love, love, love.” By the way, in a review of On The Letters of Noël Coward, edited and with commentary by Barry Day, Daniel Mendelsohn wrote that Mr. Coward’s philosophy of living “prized above all the importance of snatching happiness in a world filled with emotional confusion imposed from without and exploding from within….”
• When Dr. Benjamin Spock was asked in 1943 to write a baby- and child-care book, he agreed, believing that he had the necessary skill to write such a book. One reason he had this skill was because his mother made him and his siblings write letters to her while they were away from home attending school. Dr. Spock explained, “My mother always made us write letters from school twice a week, and she would get angry if the letters were too short. I was accustomed to writing, so I enjoyed doing the book very much.” Of course, the Dr. Spock baby book — The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care — sold millions of copies and made him famous.
• Frank Crowninshield, editor of Vanity Fair, was a perfect gentleman. According to one writer, “Even his letters of rejection were so complimentary that they had to be read twice to discover whether he was making a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize or expressing regret.” For example, writer Paul Gallico once received this rejection notice from Mr. Crowninshield. “My dear Paul, this is superb. A little masterpiece! What color! What life! How beautifully you have phrased it all! A veritable gem! — Why don’t you take it around to Harper’s Bazaar?”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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