Books: Feather Complex S.J. Perelman: a Life

by Dorothy Herrmann Putnam; 337 pages; $18.95

"Button-cute, rapier-keen, wafer-thin and pauper-poor is S.J. Perelman . . . that he possesses the power to become invisible to finance companies . . . that he owns one of the rare mouths in which butter has never melted are legends treasured by every schoolboy."

This was about as much personal information as Humorist Sidney Joseph Perelman ever intended to disclose. But his natural reticence went with him when he died at the age of 75 in 1979. Dorothy Herrmann, author of a previous book about American wits, With Malice Toward All, begins by calling her subject "brilliant" and ends by...

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