I don't know if you've noticed but every now and again I like to slip the odd literary joke into this blog. I do this for two reasons. One, to introduce some proper humour into this blog. And two, to bolster my sagging, and increasingly tenuous, credentials as a pseudo-literary blog.
I don't just toss in any old literary joke I hasten to add. "Who's in the john, Milton?" would almost certainly not make it, for example.
Maybe "I wish I'd said that", linked to the rejoinder"You will, Oscar, you will" would just sneak in if I could figure a way to do it.
The joke I was actually considering posting was the story about Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, the somewhat serious American playwright, an unlikely combination if ever there was one. It's a little bit of a hoary story so I thought I'd better check out its veracity before I posted. It turns out there are several versions but the one I remember goes like this:
Miller was a Jew with a very typical Jewish mother. After they became engaged he took Marilyn back to the formidable matriarch's apartment several times to eat. Each time the old lady served up a traditional meal consisting mainly of matzo balls to the lovestruck couple. Eventually, so the story goes, Marilyn turned her big, wide, innocent eyes to Mrs Miller and said breathily, "Mrs Miller, don't you ever cook any other part of the matzo?"
The interesting part of this story isn't the joke in question. While researching the authenticity of the anecdote I read a piece in the New York Times about the couple which was written in the nineteen fifties. In it the writer described Marilyn as a "panduriform" actress. I'd never heard the word before but I have to say I was impressed. No suggestion of dumbing down in those days.
I had to look the adjective up to find out what it meant and I guess you will too. When you do I think you'll agree it's a perfect description of the actress. And just like Oscar, I've a funny feeling I'll use it too, in the not-too-distant future.