Jewish World Review Aug 21, 2012/ 3 Elul, 5772
Not just a little girl from Little Rock
By Paul Greenberg
Born in 1922, the daughter of schoolteachers, she soon had to learn how to fend for herself. What would you say the chances were for a girl who lost her father at 10 (in a freak elevator accident at the state Capitol), had to support her mother and polio-stricken sister the rest of their lives, and wound up knocking around the country?
Answer: The chances are very good (a) if you're born in America, and (b) if you're born
"I'm just a little girl from
Editor/author Brown's success provides ample documentation for the sage observation attributed to H.L. Mencken that "nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public." Onward and Downward! But never call it vulgarity. Call it popularity and influence, which the obit writers politely did in
What a girl and, soon enough, woman. She edited Cosmopolitan, that supermarket staple, for 32 years and made it a guide for young women all over the world who adopted her advice ("Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere") or pretended to.
Editor and celebrity Brown knew better than to take her quip too seriously, as her happy marriage/love affair of 51 years attested. But she talked, wrote and sold a great game. And was 90 when she finally threw in her cards the other day.
Maybe she didn't raise the standards of American taste, but at least she took some of the starchier prejudices out of it. And her own tastes were certainly better than those who confused what she wrote with literature.
In whatever category her own prose fell, Editor Brown could spot quality in that of others, and could sum it up in a pithy phrase. Her most memorable editorial judgment may have been scribbled on a submission from a contributor to Cosmopolitan named
If the distinguishing traits of the Southern character are identity, complexity and eccentricity,
Brevity is the soul of good editorial judgment as well as wit. Who says
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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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© 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.