S. J. Perelman uses Sidney Namlerep to comment on his style and subjects and to make fun of himself and any possible detractors in this “Critical Introduction” to The Best of S. J. Perelman (1947), a collection of forty-nine stories from four previous volumes. Namlerep (Perelman spelled backward) writes from 1626 Broadway (Perelman’s office address) this “consideration” of a humorist who “certainly deserves the same consideration one accords old ladies on streetcars, babies traveling unescorted on planes, and the feebleminded generally.”
Many of Perelman’s stories begin as essays only to develop elaborate plots, but in “A Critical Introduction to The Best of S. J. Perelman by Sidney Namlerep,” his narrator is concerned solely with attacking, while ostensibly explaining, the writer’s supposed talent, his physique, and his sanity. All three defects are conjoined by the critic’s claim that Perelman’s “entire output over the past two decades has been achieved without benefit of brain.”
Namlerep questions the writer’s morality and his insistence on using arcane language. The two complaints merge when Namlerep analyzes a lengthy passage from a story entitled “Scenario,” which ridicules the clichés of melodrama: “It is all very well to condone Perelman on the ground that he wrote the foregoing after extended servitude in Hollywood, but what if such passages were to fall into the hands of...
(The entire section is 402 words.)