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Quotable, Funny, and Wise

Peg Bracken's 1969 classic.

by Everett Wilson
July 16, 2005

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Quotable, Funny, and Wise
I am paging through my replacement copy of Peg Bracken's I Didn't Come Here to Argue, which I purchased through the ubiquitous resources of Amazon. It's my replacement copy because the original, a paperback I bought new on impulse in the early '70's, had fallen apart through persistent use that lasted for three decades.
 
The first time I looked for a replacement, seven or eight years ago, I could get one from a rare books dealer for $35. I passed on that. I'm a fan of Peg Bracken, but on a certain level; how do you take a Rare Book into the john? 
         
So I'm quite happy with my hardcover replacement, withdrawn from some public library, in very good condition, probably a first edition but hardly a pristine one, which I got for $11 including shipping.     
 
What's the deal with Peg Bracken? She is definitely not forgotten. Google comes up with around 17,000 references to her in cyberspace, so interest in her continues.  She was (perhaps is, and if she is reading this she can let us know) a very funny lady in her prime as a writer of casual prose, and sometimes verse, in the 1960's and 1970's. I found her to be highly quotable, funny, and wise.
 
As with most good prose, one-liners need their context, but some stand alone. Apparently Peg Bracken did pretty well with one-liners; there are 1100 references to "Peg Bracken quotes" on my browser. I caution you that she was an evocative essayist, with comic insight; so one-liners alone do not do her justice. Here are a couple anyway, directly from I Didn't Come Here to Argue:
 
As long as men and women marry, and women have children, women will be broken-field runners, zigzagging down the field, dodging or tackling large obstacles, and running for daylight. (p 190)   
 
I've been worried, too, about all those sex surveys and depth interviews. If they happen to call me, what can I tell them that's significant?
 
Some of us remember Petunia's household hints, syndicated in many dailies fifty years ago.  That was Peg Bracken too, though she professes that she didn't much care for Petunia:
I ponder with misgivings in
My rounds with broom and shovel,
That it doesn't take much living in
A house to make a hovel.  (p 7)
I was also a fan of other middle-aged female humorists of the twentieth century, from Cornelia Otis Skinner through Jean Kerr to the apotheosis of the literary form in Erma Bombeck. I appreciated them all, and laughed with them and at them with great enjoyment. But for reasons I cannot clarify, Peg Bracken, in this particular book, was my favorite of the bunch. Maybe she said it herself, in another connection, when she observed that we don't know why we are loved, and that may be just as well.

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