Thursday, September 30, 2010

Everything I Know I Learned from Groucho Marx

This week, October 2nd, we celebrate the 120th anniversary of the birth of Groucho Marx.

I recall reading that Groucho (his real name was Julius) became a performer at his mother's insistence. He and his brothers left school at an early age to become first singers and later comedians on the vaudeville stage. Julius felt the lack of education keenly and compensated for it by becoming a voracious reader. My favorite Grouch0 quote: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it is too dark to read."

I didn't have a dog when I was growing up, but I sure did have books. I had a local library that I could have found my way around blindfolded. (To this day, I remember just where the biographies were.) I also had a set of "classic " children's books at home: fairy tales, LITTLE WOMEN, THE WIZARD OF OZ, and the like. When I'd read all of those--and I read them all several times--I started in on the encyclopedias. I'd sit with my back against the bookcase and just thumb through a volume or two, the old fashioned version of Wiki-surfing I guess.

If you're reading this, I'm betting you recognize yourself in what I've just written. We writers began as readers and we readers are addicts. We aren't happy unless we have something to read nearby. We crave words like chocolate and delight in savoring a particularly satisfying phrase. We know each other without speaking. We are the ones toting a book or a Nook or a Kindle to the dentist's office or the kids' little league games. I'm embarrassed to admit I took a book on my first date (well it WAS the beach).

Groucho's not around any more. But it's nice to know that under the wisecracks and the double entendres and the funny mustache, there was a reader like me. I wonder what he liked to read.

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