Good Reading : July 2010
54 goodreading ı JULY 2010 last word PS (Introduction): In this deplorable age of Atari, of little girls with pierced ears and little boys with tattoos ('Mother' may well be a loving sentiment, but I shudder to imagine crossing paths with one of these heavily-inked preschoolers on a dark night), one recalls fondly that long-lost era of childhood whimsy -- or should I say: 'Winnie'. A A Milne: good evening. AA Good evening to you sir, and to your readers. PS Before we begin: you have consented to this interview, have you not? No coy, spinsterish evasions, no ambush of insulting similes? AA I can see you've been speaking to Chandler -- frightful chap. PS Yes! Yes he is, isn't he? AA Wrote a damning essay on my detective novel, The Red House Mystery. Really, quite damning. PS He saidIhad'allthe charm ofa Japanese watch ...' AA Well, that is bad for m. American, you know. PS Oh, at last: a kindred spirit! May I call you 'A A'? AA 'Milne', please. Much friendlier, I think. Like old school chums. PS And you can call me 'Snydey'. I wonder ... would you consider gracing us with one of your wonderful, whimsical poems? AA Actually, that's something I should like to clear up.You know that I was principally a playwright, PS Please, Milney! Just one ... AA I'd really rather ... [sighs] Very well -- a short one. 'Happiness' [clears throat]: John had great big waterproof boots on; John had a great big waterproof hat; John had a great big waterproof mackintosh -- And that (said John) is that. PS Bravo! How splendidly ... Oh, I wish I could find the right word. What would Pooh say? How splendidly 'hummy'. DP And it is that word 'hummy', my darlings, that makes Mrs Parker want to fwow up ... PS What? Who said that? AA Mrs Parker ... I should have known. This is Mrs Dorothy Parker, Snyde: she's the literary critic for the New Yorker. DP 'Dotty', please. Or 'Dotty-Wotty' ... AA Mrs Parker wrote, it must be said, a rather mean-spirited review of The House at Pooh Corner back in '28. Of course, in those days she prefer red to hide behind the non de plume, 'Constant Reader'. DP That's 'Tonstant Weader' to you, dear. PS Well, madam, you may have had some influence at that scandal sheet, but let me assure you: Good Reading is a respectable publication. DP I also wrote a few doo-dads myself, you know. PS 'Doo-dads'? DP I couldn't call them 'poems' -- and certainly not 'hums'. Besides, New York in the '20s was a doo-dad kind of town. Let's see ... how about 'When We Were Very Sore (Lines on Discovering That You Have Been Advertised as America's A A Milne)': Dotty had great big visions of quietude. Dotty saw an ad, and it left her flat. Dotty had a great big snifter of cyanide. And that (said Dotty) is that. PS I suppose you think that's funny. DP Not in the least. I cried for a week. AA You'll excuse me ... PS Milney? Wait -- don't go! AA I'm sor ry, Snyde, but I simply refuse to be insulted in this manner. DP I can try it in blank verse if you like. PS Be quiet, you! Milney? God damn it, you've driven him away! DP And I don't even love him. Oh, don't be such a bore! Whimso might have hippety-hopped off, and for that I could cut my tongue out, really I could, but we'll have to make the best of it. Why don't you ask me about the Algonquin Round Table? PS [sighs] The what? DP 'The Vicious Circle', dear: Adams, Benchley, Sherwood, Woollcott? Edna Ferber? Heywood Broun? Our lunches at the Algonquin Hotel were the toast of newspapers across the country. I practically lived there -- hell, I did live there for some years, in a small apartment on the second floor. I say 'small'; there was barely enough room to lay my hat and a few friends.You've never heard of us? But I don't know why I'm surprised. Just a bunch of loud- mouths showing off, saving their gags for days, waiting for a chance to spring them. Why would you have? PS Oh, I'm so depressed. Sometimes, I wonder why I even bother ... DP Razors pain you; Rivers are damp; Acids stain you; And drugs cause cramp. Guns aren't lawful; Nooses give; Gas smells awful; You might as well live. PS Frankly, madam, you're not helping. DP The grass isn't any greener on the other side, believe me. Would you care for a drink? PS I drink spirits, Mrs Parker. Not with them. DP There, you see? You're learning, Snydey. I really do think you're lear ning. snyde remarks Philbert Snyde, renowned psychic journalist, interviews A A Milne and, unexpectedly, Dorothy Parker. Transcribed by GARETH BEALE.