Books: Hyde-Bound Don't Tread on Me: the Selected Letters of S.J. Perelman

Why are our days numbered and not, say, lettered?

-- Woody Allen

With this posthumous volume, S.J. Perelman answers his most famous acolyte. The days of the humorist were lettered, with explosive messages to family, colleagues, editors and amours.

In some 20 books of collected short pieces, Perelman offered a unique amalgam of elegant phrase and pratfall comedy. Behind each one was the carefully drawn self-portrait of a curmudgeon, skewering the pretentious, detonating popular culture and putting backspin on cliches ("Jigwise, all is up"). The role of sulfurous commentator was not a disguise. Don't Tread on Me proves that the life...