Sunday, 3 June 2012

S.J. Perelman, Pt. 2 : Some things never change

Some recent giggles from "The Best of S.J. Perelman", to do with advertising and lifestyle magazines. It seems like the nature of the advertising business hasn't changed much since the forties. Perelman has an uncanny gift for pointing out the ridiculous in the everyday, which is so obvious it often goes entirely unobserved.

"God knows how the convention ever got started, but if it is true that the camera never lies, a foundation garment or a girdle stimulates the fair sex to a point just this side of madness. The little ladies are always represented with their heads thrown back in an attitude of fierce desire, arms upflung to an unseen deity as though swept along in some Dionysian revel."

"Perhaps the most curious mutation of the corset advertisement is the transformation, or clinical type, consisting of two photographs. The first shows a rather bedraggled young matron in a gaping, misshapen girdle at least half a dozen sizes too large for her, cringing under the cool inspection of a trained nurse and several friends. Judging from the flowers and tea service, the hostess has invited her neighbors in to deride her physique, for they are exclaiming in unison, "Ugh, my dear--you've got lordosis [unlovely bulge and sagging backline]!" The second photograph, naturally, depicts the miracles wrought by the proper girdle, which, in addition to the benefits promised in the text, seems to have removed the crow's feet from under the subject's eyes, marcelled her hair, reupholstered the divan, and papered the walls."

"If a perfectly strange lady came up to you on the street and demanded, "Why don't you travel with a little raspberry colored cashmere blanket to throw over yourself in hotels and trains?" the chances are that you would turn on your heel with dignity and hit her with a bottle. Yet that is exactly what has been happening for the past twenty months in the pages of a little raspberry-colored magazine called Harper's Bazaar."

"Don't think it does any good to pretend there is no magazine called Harper's Bazaar. I've tried that, too, and all I get is something called "circular insanity." Imagine having both circular insanity, and Harper's Bazaar!"

"Without any preamble came the stinging query, "Why don't you rinse your blonde child's hair in dead champagne, as they do in France? Or pat her face gently with cream before she goes to bed, as they do in England?" After a quick look into the nursery, I decided to let my blonde child go to hell her own way, as they do in America"

"'Why don't you,' continued the author, spitting on her hands, "twist her pigtails around her ears like macaroons?" . . . I slept across the foot of the crib with a loaded horse pistol until the next issue appeared"

"Why don't you try the effect of diamond roses and ribbons flat on your head?" . . . and, as it happened to be my day to go to the post office (ordinarily the post office comes to me), I welcomed this chance to vary the monotony. Piling my head high with diamond roses and ribbons, I pulled on a pair of my stoutest espadrilles and set off, my cat frisking ahead of me with many a warning cry of "Here comes my master, the Marquis of Carabas!" When I walked in [the postmaster] was in process of spitting into the top drawer, where he keeps the money-order blanks. One look at Boxholder 14 and he went out the window without bothering to raise the sash. A second later, I heard a frightened voice directing a small boy to run for the hex doctor next door to the Riegels'. I spent the night behind some willows near the Delaware, and managed to work my way back to the farm without being detected, but it was a matter of months before I was able to convince the countryside that I had a twin brother, enormously wealthy but quite mad, who had eluded his guards and paid me a visit ."

" "Why Don't you build beside the sea, or in the center of your garden, a white summer dining room shaped like a tent, raped with wooden swags, with walls of screen and Venetian blinds, so you will be safe from bugs and drafts?" I recoiled, clawing the air. "No, no!" I screamed "I won't! I can't!"

Do you ever get this feeling leafing through a lifestyle magazine? Or more recently, Pinterest? My God, the more things change.  . .

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