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Ogden Nash

Candy / Is dandy / But liquor / Is quicker. These inimitable lines could only have been written by Ogden Nash, the American nonpareil of light verse and one of the more remarkable figures in American letters. His keen grasp of human nature and a unique style of verse made him, in the mid-twentieth century, the most widely read and frequently quoted poet of his time. For years, readers have longed for a biography to match Nash's charm, wit, and good nature; now we have it in Douglas Parker's absorbing life of the poet. Mr. Parker has had exclusive access to family letters and diaries, and permission to quote liberally from them and from Nash's poems. He has written a warm and inviting biography of the poet who reveled in whimsy and wordplay, but who was applauded by his more serious contemporaries.
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About the Author

Douglas Parker studied at the Cornell Law School, practiced corporate law in New York City, and served in the White House under President Nixon and in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He is now retired from private practice and lives in South Orleans, Massachusetts.


The life of the man who is fondly remembered for his verse "Candy/Is dandy/ But liquor/Is quicker" was often anything but dandy, according to his assiduous biographer. Ogden Nash's (1902-1971) genteel Southern heritage and one year at Harvard (due to his father's financial reverses) provided him with literary aspirations that led him to fear his jaunty, pun-filled, gently satiric verse was not real poetry. Even after acclaim greeted his frequent publication in the New Yorker, finances forced him to leave his beloved (and temperamental) wife and two daughters to go on the road as a lecturer and performer, where he often suffered bouts of intestinal illness and depression. His yearning for a career in musical theater was briefly (if memorably) fulfilled when he provided the lyrics for Kurt Weill's classic "Speak Low." Gratification came from unexpected sources, however, including a lifelong friendship with S.J. Perelman and the praise of W.H. Auden. Parker, a retired lawyer writing with the Nash family's cooperation, provides numerous examples of Nash's distinctive poetry, his wit underscored by gentle social commentary, antic wordplay and rhyme and meter that seemed random but was meticulously composed. Parker's is a useful, highly readable biography of one of America's best-loved poets. Photos. 12 b&w photos not seen by PW. (Apr. 29) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-Parker paints a picture of a kind, loving man who made words and wordplay fun and entertaining. Even at the age of 10, Nash possessed a talent and an ability to use language cleverly. In 1930, Nash's poems made their appearance in the New Yorker, and this funny, talented writer became part of a literary landscape that included such luminaries as Dorothy Parker and S. J. Perelman. At first glance, Nash's verses seem simple, and yet they are filled with witty lines and twists on spelling. He liked to write about families, and no one was safe from his gentle satire, not even his beloved wife, Frances. Nash told the truth about the ordinary and, in doing so, endeared himself to a lifetime of readers. Would-be poets and satirists as well as students interested in the artistic milieu of the times will enjoy reading this well-written tribute.-Peggy Bercher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

In this faithful and fascinating chronicle, Ogden Nash's triumphs and disappointments on Broadway and in Hollywood; his battles with writer's block and the bottle; his disparate careers as poet, lyricist, editor, film writer, radio and television personality, courtly lover, and resident "Jesus" for Harold Ross of The New Yorker, are all revealed. Nash was a man without enemies; Douglas M. Parker's captivating biography should win him legions of new friends. -- X. J. Kennedy Douglas Parker's superb biography of Ogden Nash is the book I would rather find in a hotel drawer than the Gideon Bible. Ironically, upon reading a Nash verse, I am invariably tempted to break the Commandment: thou shalt not steal. -- Mark Russell, political satirist Now that humor has finally been released from the doghouse called 'light verse' and has reclaimed its rightful place in poetry, how well-timed is Douglas Parker's examination of the life and work of Ogden Nash, who refused to hide his joyful wit behind the long, serious mask donned by the writers of 'heavy verse.' -- Billy Collins Douglas Parker's intelligent, informative, and engaging new biography fills a significant scholarly need in presenting the life and times of this neglected but important American poet. -- Dana Gioia Parker's is a useful, highly readable biography of one of America's best-loved poets. Publishers Weekly Well-researched. Bloomberg Parker's biography may well lead to a new appreciation of Nash... -- Debra Lawless Chatham Chronicle Explores the complex person behind the deceptively simple verse. -- Melanie Lauwers Cape Cod Times I've marked page after page to treasure-for the skill of the friendly first-time biographer as well as the delights of the poet. -- Roderick Nordell The Christian Science Monitor Admirably concise. -- Brad Leithauser The Wall Street Journal Douglas Parker has given us an attractive book about an engaging writer. -- John M. and Priscilla S. Taylor The Washington Times Capable biography... -- Jonathan Yardley The Instrumentalist Parker narrates Nash's accomplishments with careful detail, sprinkling apt verse excerpts throughout to add lyrical detail. Zentralblatt fur Geologie und Palaontologie Ogden Nash is an irresistible subject for biography. Douglas M. Parker, a former lawyer and public servant, has undertaken the task out of affection and admiration for his subject; his response to Nash is that of an intelligent layman to a unique talent. Without indulging in special pleading for Nash's importance, Parker's Ogden Nash is a temperate and carefully measured account. -- William H. Pritchard Times Literary Supplement In the best of Nash we find a haiku of hilarity, a profound explication of the human condition. Parker has given us a levelheaded explanation of where Nash was coming from. American Spectator Parker tells this life story smoothly... Nash's legion of fans should find themselves satisfied at this total story. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Parker has done a tremendous service by writing this readable and workmanlike biography-the first biography of Nash, amazingly enough. Books and Culture Douglas M. Parker, a retired Washington, D.C., lawyer, writes a solid biography of Ogden Nash (1902-1971), perhaps America's most beloved versifier... The author has done himself proud. It wouldn't bother citizens of the country much if more Washington lawyers took to writing biographies. The Buffalo News Parker's finely written biography provides a thorough picture of Nash. The reference section is extensive and impressive. If you are a Nash fan to begin with, you will be more so upon completion of Parker's book. Charleston Post and Courier This biography is a fine and overdue tribute to a good man who wrote very funny and sometimes sad light verse. It is particularly strong on Nash's ventures into musical theatre and his long involvement with the New Yorker. Literary Review, (Uk) Parker's sympathetic appraisal reveals a man of adaptable talents. The New Yorker Douglas M. Parker's biography tells his story with an abundance of detail. The New York Times There seems to be a law of deceptive appearances requiring that anyone who wrote as much and as wittily as Ogden Nash must have been deeply troubled. However, according to Douglas M. Parker's carefully researched and authoritative new biography of the master of light verse, Nash violated that law as cavalierly as he broke the laws of rhyme and prosody. In Odgen Nash Parker shows that Nash was in fact the likable man that his poems suggest. Even when his verses are slightly acerbic, he describes universal experiences that strengthen the bonds of our humanity. The Seattle Times Multi-faceted biography covers all aspects...and is a 'must' for any Nash reader. Bookwatch Affectionately honest. -- Laurie Higgins Upper Cape Codder Douglas M. Parker believes that Nash has become too little-known, and he makes a good case. -- Richard Wakefield Light Quarterly Richly detailed...[An] affectionate look at Nash's life. -- Theresa Barnaby Tri-City Herald A fast-paced, readable biography...One of the delights of Parker's book is its reprinting of Nash's pleasure-giving lines. -- Joseph Rosenblum Magill's Literary Annual Really quite dandy to read by the fire whilst nibbling on candy...a good introduction to Nash. -- R.A. Bartlett CHOICE [An] affectionate look at Nash's life... Richly detailed with excerpts from family correspondence. Tri-City Herald Worth Reading. -- Louis Phillips Georgia Review

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