“In America anybody can be president. That’s one of the risks you take.”
Many people consider Stevenson (1900 – 1965) an also-ran because he lost out to Dwight D Eisenhower in the 1952 and 1956 elections. As a result, though, he cannot be blamed for many of the things for which Dwighty baby is blamed. He was a man of great intellect and liberal ideas even though he came from Illinois. He was from a political family with some closetty skeletons not unlike the Kennedys (Stevenson killed a friend when he was 16, practicing his drill technique with a loaded rifle. We still read the same story ever day so some things never change). You could say he was the “West Wing” TV President that never was – his reputation for being an intellectual endeared him to many people but an awful lot were put off by the same thing. One quote that doesn’t appear in this list is “Americans do not like a smart man”, but it should be. We salute you Stevenson, the best President the US never had.
“I love Americans when they try to talk French. What a blessing it is they never try to talk English”
Saki (1870 – 1916) was really a chap called Hector Hugh Munro – Saki was his pen name (I would say nom de plume, what with the above quote about language, but with so many Americans reading this one would not wish to alienate. Not any further at least). He isn’t very well known these days, which is a shame. He wrote edgy stories with more than a little of the Dorothy Parker in them, if you get my drift. Perhaps the most famous line from his works is “Romance at short notice was her speciality”. Now, we all know someone like that, don’t we?
“When good Americans die they go to Paris. When bad Americans die they go to America”
Wilde (1854 – 1900) was, despite the above, was charmed by America and feted by its citizens. Many people think he was English but in fact he was Irish and is best remembered for his plays such as The Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband. He was a major celebrity player of his day but fell from public grace when he was convicted of the crime of gross indecency. Basically he was sent down for being gay (and an uppity one at that!). The brilliance of his work, however, has ensured his immortality in our (slightly) more enlightened times.
“To Americans English manners are far more frightening than none at all.”
Jarrell (1914 – 1965) was born the year the First World War broke out and hailed from Nashville, Tennessee. He is mostly known for his poetry and was killed by a speeding car. One wonders, as Jarrell had recently been treated for depression, whether or not he jumped in front of the car. Either way, having exhausted all his options he was run over by someone in the process of exhausting their own. His reputation is based on only 160 poems – one reason perhaps he is referred to as “minor”. Not Morris Minor, we hope!
“A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won’t cross the street to vote in a national election.”
Vaughan (1915 – 1977) was a columnist born in Missouri. Which is ironic. He wrote for lots of fairly boring magazines, from “Reader’s Digest” to “Better Homes and Gardens”. I’m sleepy already. However, he remains popular amongst those who like homely, folks stuff. Pass me the sleeping pills, now. Sometimes prescient, though, my favourite quote of his is “Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes down the trees, then names the streets after them.” I mean, how many wisterias have you ever seen on “Desperate Housewives”?
“The IQ and the life expectancy of the average American recently passed each other going in opposite directions.”
The love child of Mae West and Lenny Bruce? Perhaps not, but Carlin (born in1937 and still alive – hurrah, someone on the list liveth!) is an expert when it comes to that heady cross of political and black humour. So political and black that in 1978 the Supreme Court said that the Government could regulate Carlin’s act when broadcast. No wonder so many Americans buy pickups, plaid shirts, enough fire power to wipe out a small Asian country (Vietnam excepted) and head for the hills. He was also the first person to host Saturday Night Live. So, how come so few have heard of him outside America?
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