Don’t Tread on Me: Selected Letters

Mark Ford writes:

Of all the now vanished breed of New Yorker humorists – James Thurber, E.B. White, Dorothy Parker – S.J. Perelman wrote by far the richest, most meticulously crafted prose. His dedication to his art was almost frightening. He was once asked in an interview how many drafts each piece went through. ‘Thirty-seven,’ he replied. ‘I once tried doing 33, but something was lacking, a certain – how shall I say? – je ne sais quoi. On another occasion, I tried 42 versions, but the final effect was too lapidary – you know what I mean, Jack? What the hell are you trying to extort – my trade secrets?’

(LRB 7 July 1988)