Books: The Portable Curmudgeon – Jon Winokur

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I've always disliked quotes. It seems to me that if you're going to say something, you might as well say it yourself. It doesn't help that I rarely hear a quote that hasn't been beaten to death harder then a punching bag at a military training base. I swear, if I hear one more person say "You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake," like they're subversive and original for doing so I will . . . well, probably roll my eyes derisively and make a snide comment. 

The main reason for this is that I am a Curmudgeon. For those who don't know what a curmudgeon is, the following should be illuminating.

Cur ⠂mud ⠂geon\,ker-'mujhuh-n N [origin unknown]

1 archaic: A crusty, ill-tempered, churlish old man

2 modern: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner

. . .

This definition be-graces the first page of what is possibly the only exception to my dislike of quotes. The Portable Curmudgeon is a delightful book packed to the bindings with excerpts, anecdotes and, yes, you guessed it, quotes – every single one of them scathing, cynical, sarcastic, and downright irritated.

On the subject of critics and 'reviewers' (such as myself) this wonderful book provides the following: 

"Critics are a dissembling, dishonest, contemptible race of men. Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs." – John Osborne, 

"Critics are like eunuchs in a harem: they know how it's done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves" – Ambrose Bierce. 

"A critic is a legless man who teaches running." – Channing Pollock. 

I bleed from the viciousness of their words, honestly! But really, it's easy to make fun of critics. Can this book hold up on other subjects? Have no fear! It is conveniently organized alphabetically by topic, interspersed by anecdotes and interviews of notable people.

Filed under, 'Advice to young writers:'

"Unless you think you can do it better than Tolstoy, we don't need you." – James Michener 

On being 'Good:' 

"The good die young – because they see it's no use living if you've got to be good." – John Barrymore to 

And on 'Youth:'

"Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children." – George Bernard Shaw 

The book has only one real flaw. Despite being published in 1993, it sometimes feels dated, and with the exception of Groucho Marx, I did not recognize a single one of the interviewed or featured persons throughout the book.  However, this did not diminish their hilarity and likely speaks more to my ignorance then the obscurity of those quoted. 

To summarize, if you've ever felt people are stupid, ever wanted to shout "Baahhh Humbug!" if you've ever completely disagreed in every way possible, or squinted at someone and told them just how wrong they were, then you should appreciate The Portable Curmudgeon.  If you haven't, you are far too good of a person and need to pick up this book for a heavily needed injection of cynicism, sarcasm, and satire.

In closing, I will leave you with this.

"I have given up reading books; I find it takes my mind off myself." – Oscar Levant

Sigmund A. WerndorfAbout the Reviewer:

Sigmund A. Werndorf is a Los Angeles born student residing in San Francisco California, where he can be found hunting down antiquities and curiosities, passionately pushing the boundaries of radical culinary experimentation, exploring the dangerous world of modern music, and writing reams upon reams of papers that no one actually reads.

He is also curator for the correspondences of Johan B. Hackworth.