If there’s a great American humorist who hasn’t gotten a shout-out here at ErosBlog but surely deserves one, it’s S. J. Perelman (1904-1979). Not only was he often slyly naughty-funny, but he also co-wrote (with Ogden Nash) the book for One Touch of Venus, so really, what more could you ask for?
Now recently a wise old friend sent me a snippet of Perelman’s relevant to my own strange interests and I made merry with it over at my other Internet home. [As the old joke goes: “And then Merry went home.” — Bacchus] Digging into its provenance a little further later I was I able to come up with something of perhaps more general interest.
The snippet was the lead in to a short piece called “Captain Future, Block that Kick!” first published by Perelman in the New Yorker on January 20, 1940, a satirical “review” of what (I think) is a fictitious work of Space Opera detailing the adventures of a space hero and his companions. In the course of this review, Perelman makes the following genre-savvy observation:
In pulp fiction, it is a rigid convention that the hero’s shoulders and the heroine’s balcon constantly threaten to burst their bonds, a possibility which keeps the audience in a state of tense expectancy.
(The counterintuitive word choice balcon always keeps me laughing.) Perelman goes on to lament:
Unfortunately for fans, however, recent tests reveal that the wisp of chiffon which stands between the publisher and the postal laws has the tensile strength of drop-forged steel.
Perelman is referring to the statutory survival of the Comstock Act, which makes it a Federal felony to mail “Every obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent, filthy or vile article, matter, thing, device, or substance…” a subject whose history I’ve been able to touch on before here. This crap is still on the statute books, apparently, see 18 U.S.C. 1471.
So having bowed to the shade of S. J. Perelman, let’s all take a moment to thank Cthulhu that we’re living in the Internet age.