To the Editor:
A little of the old steam
A little of the bold steam—
That’s what will keep the kramer1 from the
You can snarl at second-rate books,
Find the fraud in all those Great Books,
Twist the tail of Adler, Mortimer J.2
A little of the old steam,
A little of the bold steam,
Or Hilton Kramer’s baying at the door.
It don’t count (no it don’t count)
If it’s in that strictly no count
That provincial adolescent schizophrenic
Languid effete and congenitally non-
Rag—and I don’t mean COMMENTARY.
1According to Miss Florabel Spurgeon’s Myth and Ritual in the Black Forest (Chatto & Windo, 1905), those woodcutters who had not chopped down their quota of Established Reputations were visited at night by a “kramer,” a small rodent-like creature which nibbled at their toes, until they got back to work.
2“The Book-of-the-Millennium dub,” New Yorker, Nov. 29, 1952.
3“Varieties of Political Experience,” New Yorker, March 28, 1959.
4“The Bible in Modern Undress,” New Yorker, Nov. 14, 1953.
5See “Reader’s Indigestion,” New Yorker, Oct. 13, 1956, in which I performed for The Outsider much the same service I later did for another best-seller in COMMENTARY.
6See New Yorker, Nov. 26-Dec. 17, 1955.
7“The Lost Art,” New Yorker, March 15, 1958.
8The adjectives are mostly authentic kramerisms. In my intellectual retirement, I like to compare the holiday doodlings of mine listed above with the kramer’s apodictic sentence on the New Yorker’s treatment of art & letters: “Yet, behind this air of relaxation, one could not help detecting the terrifying relentlessness with which a serious subject—and a subject, moreover, in which the writer’s vital personal response counts for a great deal—had been parodied, trimmed, ridiculed, and finally made boring and absurd by the author’s attempt to make it seem completely effortless, utterly common-sensical, and open to the most easygoing attention” (wow).
New York City