Two recent birthday shout-outs on social media that spoke to me were those for Winnie the Pooh on August 21, the anniversary of the day in 1921 when the real-life Christopher Robin received him as a present, and for the great Dorothy Parker, poet, short-story writer, critic and notorious wit, on August 22, her 121st, she having been born on that day in 1893 across the Atlantic in New Jersey, USA. Not just because I am a fan of both, but because coincidences delight me, and this is a great one, especially when you add in a third august anniversary: August 25, 1928: the day Dorothy Parker's famous review of The House at Pooh Corner came out in The New Yorker. The one where she sentenced "Tonstant Weader fwowed up".
(Keep in mind: typos.)
Here's the story of Miss Parker's review of The House at Pooh Corner, as told by Marlene Wagman-Geller in Eureka! : the surprising stories behind the ideas that shaped the world:
The House at Pooh Corner proved to be one pot of honey too many for the acerbic critic. The breaking point for Parker was when Pooh revealed that he added the "tiddely pom" to his Outdoor Song which Has To Be Sung In The Snow "to make it more hummy". Her caustic ink stated, "And it is that word 'hummy,' my darlings, that marks the first place in The House at Pooh Corner at which Tonstant Weader fwowed up."
Now, here's what Dorothy Parker's obituary in the New York Times, as posted by the Dorothy Parker Society on their website, has to say about the review:
Book Briefly Dismissed
She reduced A.A. Milne's sugary "The House at Pooh Corner" to water by remarking that "Tonstant Weader Fwowed up" after reading one too many of the word "tummy."
I found Alden Whitman's own obituary in the The New York Times, in their archives.You have to wonder if it were one that he wrote for himself. It does sound like it:
Mr. Whitman, short, amiable and professorial, worked 13 years as an editor on metropolitan and national copy desks of The Times. He became something of a clubman and literary figure in his later life, writing book reviews for The Times and other publications and donning a cape to sally from newsroom for luncheons with authors.