December 17, 2006

Sweeter Than Any After Dinner Mint - Poems in Praise of Practically Nothing

Poems in Praise of Practically Nothing (Classics of Modern American Humor)
by Samuel Hoffenstein

No one should ever think of "Poems in Praise of Practically Nothing" as a romantic book. But to this truth I say it is as romantic a book as you'll find on any shelf dwelt by Byron or Neruda.

When the evening candles are lit, and the music entangles her perfume and traces her smile, and you pause to wander through the volumes set upon the wall, you would not be wise to pick up even the slimmest selection of T. S. Eliot's poetry. Your wisdom would be questioned if you glanced even for a moment at Shelley or Keats, no matter how much their words may smolder. Your brilliance will lay in picking something better than the ordinary. With discretion, you could find "Poems in Praise of Practically Nothing" as nothing ordinary. She will think you chose it spontaneously. Instead, you planned to share it with her long before the wine was purchased.

She, your lovely date, will have never heard one line you will read to her from Samuel Hoffenstein's collection. She will have heard "She Walks in Beauty" a sickening number of cliched times, but you can presume she has never heard the poem called "I":

Nothing from a straight line swerves
So sharply as a woman's curves,
And, having swerved, no might or main
Can ever put her straight again.

Always tasteful, but with a slight wink and nudge, Hoffenstein will help take off the edge of a new relationship.

The poems taste like Ogden Nash, but are seeped in the spice of Edward Lear. Where they lack in depth, they burst in flavored multiple entendre fun. With your beautiful friend sitting beside you, you'll read together and laugh. Rather than musing with intellectual stares and murmurs, you both will enjoy the evening. The value of a traded smile is worth more than any discussion of melancholy and Keats.

This book is humor, through the vehicle of light verse. In its day, it was quickly known as a classic, and favored by Dorothy Parker and H. L. Mencken. 100,000 copies were sold as of 1941. This book is a sure thing, and should be strategically placed on a shelf prior to any date.

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