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Old 09-20-2009, 04:00 AM
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'A book to be thrown with great force'--actual source found?

While googling something else, I came upon this archived thread from 2002, wherein a bunch of Dopers tried & failed to find the original use of the quote, "This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown aside with great force." They were thinking it was Dorothy Parker, but could not confirm it.

In reviewing a book by Mussolini?

This more recent page, on MetaFilter, thinks it was said by Mrs Parker; about The Cardinal's Mistress, apparently a translation of Benito Mussolini's Claudia Particella, l'amante del cardinale. (Or did Mrs Parker read Italian?)

Which I find interesting. Sadly, ever since seeing Chaplin's The Great Dictator, I see ol' Benito as the character parodying him in that, which is probably unfair. (Or fair, considering the great fascist/nationalist turned his nation into a vassal state. ymmv)

But, apparently, well before he was il Duce, a young B. Mussolini wrote a bodice-ripper. I find this sort of endearing. However.

This is when he was still in his anti-clerical youth, natch, so it seems, from the review I found, to have been very Author On Board.
Originally Posted by Alfred Armstrong, for Odd Books
You may gather from my synopsis that this is not great literature, nor would you expect it to be, given its author. But a book does not have to be great literature to be worth reading, if it has, say, a fast-moving plot, interesting characters, humour - intentional or otherwise - or a smattering of lubricious sex. None of these things are to be found here, sadly.
The preface to the English edition, by the translator Hiram Motherwell, says that this was Mussolini's sole excursion into fiction, apart from one, reportedly morbid, short story. One must assume that despite the supposed success of his serial with readers of La Vita Trentina, he did not see himself as a historical novelist, perhaps because he was aware of his limitations as a writer: if so, the lazy pop-psychological explanation of the dictator as frustrated artist will not fit in this case.

That it is not a more interesting book is a shame: one would like, in answer to the query: “What are you reading at the moment?”, to be able to answer smugly: “The Cardinal's Mistress, by Benito Mussolini”, and hint by smirk and wink that this is the sort of meat only appreciated by the cognoscenti: gamey, adventurous; something rich and strange: but unfortunately it is merely rotten old tripe.
And you can buy it.

Last edited by foolsguinea; 09-20-2009 at 04:01 AM.
Old 09-20-2009, 01:01 PM
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It was definitely Dorothy Parker, although I don't recall which book. The idea that it's the Mussolini book doesn't ring true, but I could be wrong. She wrote book reviews under the heading Constant Reader for The New Yorker in her early career, then for Esquire late in life. I have numerous DP bios and even a compilation of her Constant Reader reviews, but they're all boxed up for now.
Old 09-20-2009, 01:52 PM
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Why are you convinced that it was Dorothy Parker who said it? In the thread cited in the OP, we checked out the story as thoroughly as we could and we couldn't find anyplace where she had said it. Yes, it's clear that a lot of people believe that she said it, but just where did she say it?
Old 09-20-2009, 04:53 PM
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I've read just about every bio about DP and the Algonquins out there, including the definitive and myth-busting What Fresh Hell Is This, plus many of her book reviews and other works. I AM relying on memory (as I said all the books are packed up). So, it's within the realm of possibility I'm mis-remembering, but finding the books and re-reading them all to find the cite isn't something I'm likely to do any time soon. Sorry, guess I shouldn't have said anything, but this is an area I'm well-read in and it's one of the quotes that I remember being genuine. It's true that a lot of things people think she said she didn't -- in her day any vaguely witty bon mot would be attributed to her (just like people attribute things to other writers/comedians/etc. today). In addition, the Gonks would often say things THEY made up and attribute to her just for fun: "Mrs. Parker said to me the other day that ..." and off they'd go. So, is this a false attribution? Anything's possible, but I don't think so.
Old 09-20-2009, 05:05 PM
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Someone in a thread on the Snopes message board said that it was in the September 15, 1928 issue of The New Yorker. The magazine's website does appear to have scanned issues that far back, but accessible only to subscribers, so is there anyone here who has access to it and can positively verify that?

Last edited by Dewey Finn; 09-20-2009 at 05:05 PM.
Old 09-20-2009, 05:09 PM
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I've just thoroughly reread "Duces Wild", her review of The Cardinal's Mistress from The Penguin Dorothy Parker, and it ain't in there.
Old 09-20-2009, 06:11 PM
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The quote would appear to be a corruption of,
It is not a book to be lightly read and lightly thrown aside, like a novel, yet it is as entertaining as fiction.
Said of Theodore Mommsen's 'A History of Rome' (translated by the Rev. William P. Dickenson, New York: C Scribner & Co. 1869-70) on page 359 of The American educational monthly: a magazine of popular instruction and literature, Volume 7. However the authorship of the 'Current Publication' review section itself, is annoyingly unattributed.

ETA:Obviously this would preclude Dorothy Parker being the original source.

Last edited by Captain_Awesome; 09-20-2009 at 06:15 PM.
Old 09-20-2009, 06:22 PM
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Captain Awesome, surely your quote there is just a regular old saying; whereas the (alleged) Parker quote is a witty riff on that cliché, and therefore worthy of identification by its original - witty - form?
Old 09-20-2009, 07:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
Someone in a thread on the Snopes message board said that it was in the September 15, 1928 issue of The New Yorker. The magazine's website does appear to have scanned issues that far back, but accessible only to subscribers, so is there anyone here who has access to it and can positively verify that?
I thought maybe I'd have access to it at work (I'm a librarian), but our holdings of The New Yorker only go back to 1935. Any other Doper librarians have access to issues from the '20s?
Old 09-21-2009, 03:59 AM
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I've read through all the notable reviews collected in The Penguin Dorothy Parker, and the closest I've come to the quote is from her review of The Autobiography of Margot Asquith: "four volumes, neatly boxed, suitable for throwing purposes".
Old 09-21-2009, 04:05 AM
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Oh, and don't bother with the September 15 1928 issue of The New Yorker: it's just her review of The Cardinal's Mistress, which I've already checked.
Old 09-21-2009, 11:52 AM
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I have The Complete New Yorker, on 8 CDs. I checked through them for every review that Parker wrote, especially the ones not reprinted in Constant Reader. The phrase appears in none of them. As far as I can tell the Constant Reader collection faithfully reprints the reviews so there wasn't any need to reread them all. It's hard to imagine that such a line would be cut out in any case.

The book does have some problems. Some reviews can't be found at all in the pages of the magazine. Example: Two Lives and Some Letters, listed as March 14, 1931, reviews H. S. Ede's Savage Messiah. But the issue has only a theater review, of A. A. Milne's play "Give Me Yesterday." I can't find that review anywhere in 1931. And the Ede book definitely came out in 1931, when she wrote only the occasional review. It's possible that the odd and quirky search engine built into the Complete NY (you can't search by title or keyword or phrase) missed that review in some issue so there's still hope that other reviews might lie buried in the archives.

There is simply no source for the line that anyone has found. It sounds like Parker, it gets attributed to Parker, and books about Parker accept it as hers. Everybody remembers reading it in Parker or in some book about Parker, although none of them have a source either.

Where it comes from knows only God.
Old 09-21-2009, 10:29 PM
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It doesn't come from anywhere. That's the beauty of it.
Old 09-21-2009, 11:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Number View Post
It doesn't come from anywhere. That's the beauty of it.
Well done, sir or madam.
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