Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bennett Cerf

Bennett Alfred Cerf was born at Manhattan on this day in 1898. He was born
and brought up in New York City in a Jewish family of Alsatian and German
descent. His father, Gustave Cerf, was a lithographer; his mother, Frederika
Wise, was an heiress to a tobacco-distribution fortune.
He received his B.A. from Columbia University in 1919 and his Litt.B. from
their School of Journalism the next year. He was only briefly a reporter
before joining the publishing house that owned the Modern Library series.
With partner Donald Klopfer he bought that business in 1927. in addition to
the Modern Library series they decided to publish a few other books "at
random", they later changed the name of the business to Random House. Cerf
was a master of developing relationships with authors, his stable included
William Faulkner, James Michener, Truman Capote, Ayn Rand, and Dr Seuss. He
compiled several joke books and was a regular panelist on What's My Line?
from 1951 through 1967.

A pat on the back, though only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the
pants, is miles ahead in results.

Most of the things that are supposed to be so objectionable in books are
things that every teenager, in the United States, not only knows, but has
talked about at length in school, or on the way home from school.

There is a mass of people, we might as well admit, who if they weren't
watching television, would be doing absolutely nothing else.

Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a
man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a
woman's name out of a satire, then wrote the piece so that she could still
be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of
incest. Do you still want to be a writer? And if so, why?

Good manners: The noise you don't make when you're eating soup.

The Detroit String Quartet played Brahms last night. Brahms lost.

All from Bennett Cerf, 1898 - 1971

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