The Bibliophile's Adventurers Club

Exemplars of bookish delight

In retrospect: Acres and Pains


It’s Fair time here in the city of trees. Nothing quite like sauntering about, sipping freshly squeezed lemonade, whilst perusing lifestock to make one long for her roots. By the time all’s said and done, I’m determined to buy a parcel of land, raise a head of cattle–maybe a llama or two, and a guineafowl for good measure–grow my own food, and churn my own butter. You know, the simple things. I’ve even found the perfect day dress–add some galoshes and a matching apron, and no one will know this city slicker doesn’t belong.

If ever you’ve hatched a similar plan, perhaps you’d better read S.J. Perelman’s Acres and Pains before you sign that deed . . .

You see, in the 1930’s New York writers began to migrate to Bucks County, Pennsylvania. S.J. Perelman was one of them. And he chronicled his (mis)advnetures in a series of essays–most of which were published in  The Saturday Evening Post, the sum of which became Acres and Pains:

If you can spare the time to drive sixty miles into the backwoods of eastern Pennsylvania, crouch down in a bed of poison ivy, and peer through the sumacs, you will be rewarded by an interesting sight. What you will see is a middle-aged city dweller, as lean and bronzed as a shad’s belly (I keep a shad’s belly hanging up in the barn for purposes of comparison), gnawing his fingernails and wondering how to abandon a farm.

So begins his ode to country life. A satirical look, it’s full of Perelman’s infamous play on words. While it may not be considered one of his best works, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Clocking in at 128 pages, I chortled my way through in one sitting. 

Of course, I do have a sneaking suspicion, in order to truly enjoy this book, you have to have been around long enough to recognize the reality in the ridiculous. That’s what makes Perelman’s writing so great, no matter the title.


  1. Sounds like my type of book – which is his best work, in your opinion?

    • amelia

      21 August 2013 at 10:36 am

      I’ve read his essays, here and there (they’ve all amused me to no end). I also read a book on S.J. Perelman. But this is the first full collection I’ve read. So while I cannot answer your question at this time, I can say, the more of his pieces I read, the more I realize wit, word-play, seems to be a dying art. Pity.

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