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The Absolute Best Book on Groucho
on December 7, 2002
This classic collection of Groucho Marx's correspondence, which was donated to the Library of Congress, at their request, gives the best glimpse into who Groucho Marx was. Not only do we see his letters to his family and friends, who included some of the century's most famous people, but we get to see what people wrote in return. Groucho's personality and wit shine through, and these letters are a rare treasure.
With little formal education, Groucho could construct a letter better than most people with college degrees. He shows himself as witty, acerbic, sometimes sentimental and, yes, often grouchy. The book starts off with his infamous exchange with the legal department at Warner Brothers, who claim they own the rights to the movie title "Casablanca." Groucho responds that, perhaps, since the Marx Brothers were famous before the Warner Brothers, that perhaps they owned the rights to use "Brothers"?
We see Groucho's exchanges with many of his friends, but not much between the brothers themselves, since they were almost always together and there was no need of correspondence. We see Groucho's complaints and his praise. The most memorable part of the book is Groucho's legendary correspondence with the poet, T.S. Elliot. Groucho is clearly in awe of the poet, who seems equally in awe of the comic. It takes several years for this predecessor of the modern "Email friendship" to become a "real life friendship" when Groucho and his wife fly to London to meet "Tom" and his wife. We find out about the evening via a letter Groucho sent to another person. We also see a letter where Groucho mourns T.S. Elliot's passing.
This collection of letters is never out-dated, and never becomes boring. There is always something to read, somewhere in the book. It is not a book that you will read, then forget about. It's an amazing, historical collection of wit, sarcasm and genuine tenderness that is essential to any humor library.