SMART ALECK: The Wit, World, and Life of Alexander Woollcott by Howard Teichmann

SMART ALECK: The Wit, World, and Life of Alexander Woollcott

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KIRKUS REVIEW

George S. Kaufman, one of Woollcott's few lifelong friends and the subject of an earlier Teichmann biography (1972), summed him up in the word ""Improbable."" That he was--this vain, sentimental, self-serving, generous (always in hidden ways) man who was the talk of the town, the one who came to dinner, the one who dined on others' witticisms but managed many of his own, the patriot in both wars. When he enlisted in WW I, someone asked ""Who's the pregnant mermaid?"" Behind the tubby, epicene physique, there was the latent homosexual--Teichmann claims there's been a lot of fudging by earlier biographers here. For his first twenty years as a drama critic, Woollcott was as magnanimous as he was vicious. His own fame really started with his radio shows when the whole country listened to the voice with ""truffles on his tonsils."" It would be further corroborated by the long-playing comedy about the long-staying guest. In between, there's Woollcott's feud with New Yorker editor Harold Ross, his famous country establishment at Lake Bomoseen, and the by now familiar Round Table talk. Ultimately Teichmann makes affection triumph over the many uncomfortable aspects of the man whom Thurber called ""Old Vitriol and Violets."" Woollcott himself is said to have bragged that he ""was the best writer in America, but had nothing to say."" This is the real tragedy and final judgment on a life lived with one eye on celebrity and the other on immortality.

Pub Date: May 10th, 1976
Publisher: Morrow