I don’t remember where I got the strange book, although The Speaker’s Desk Book, edited by Martha Lupton and first copyrighted in 1937, is stamped with a law school library’s name. It has three sections: Sparklers Anecdotes, and Jewels of Thought. The first section consists of aphorisms grouped under alphabetical headings, such as Business, Marriage, and Revenge. Only a fraction of the pithiness is ascribed to anyone. The section contains a variety of supposed wisdom. For example: “Business won’t come back; you’ll have to go after it.” “Marriage is a state of antagonistic cooperation.—Schlossberg.” “The rocks we hold to throw at our neighbor have a way of getting into our own pillows.”
The Jewels are paragraphs or pages with the authors listed that seem to be a random collection of thoughts on diverse topics, including “Work!” and “Calamaties.”
The most intriguing to me, however, are the 1187 anecdotes which are preceded by a guide for their use. The guide says that the general topic index “should suggest many possibilities to the experienced speaker.” If talking about “courtesy,” look it up in the nearly 500 headings and there are twenty courtesy anecdotes listed. “Another helpful practice is that of grouping stories by race, or nationality such as Jewish, Irish, Scotch, Negro, etc. This aids the speaker who has a preference for dialects.” There are six “Italian stories,” five times that for “Jewish stories,” and even more for the Irish, but only one listed under “Japanese stories.” However, when a speaker really needed something, he could go to the more than one hundred “Negro stories.” The anecdotes, the compiler must have thought, would elicit a laugh or a chuckle from the audience, or at least a smile. Maybe back then they did, and that is frightening. Almost none is funny, and the ethnic “anecdotes” are overwhelmingly cringeworthy. The book makes me despair about our past, but it gives me a bit of optimism that our world has changed at least somewhat for the better.
Elon Musk is an immigrant.
A wise person said: “The remarkable thing is not the money makes fools of great people but that it makes great people of fools.”
He was sitting across from me on the subway. About 45 wearing a trendy jacket, a trendy spiky haircut that should have been too young for him, but he pulled off. He looked a little bit like Elon Musk. He was reading through trendy glasses with almost red frames. Unlike most who read on the subways these days, he was reading a paperback, not on his phone. It was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz, a marvelous book. His lips moved while he read.
I am old enough to remember when mothers made their kids’ Halloween costumes.
I had an interesting dinner conversation about whether parents should distribute money equally to their children or give more to those who have the greatest need. No consensus. What do you think?