Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?
- Author: M. Meade
- Title: Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This
- Published: 1987
- Trivia: List of challenges 2017
- Iconic American writer, Dorothy Parker (1893 – 1967)
- ….who has fallen between the cracks.
- Pour yourself a glass of red wine, or as
- Dorothy called it ‘The Red Badge of Courage’
- and spend hours with this feisty lady!
- Dorothy Parker is one of the writers that have slipped between the cracks.
- I know of her….but know nothing about her.
- Parker described her self as a mongrel.
- “My father was a Rothschild, her mother was a goy;
- ..and I went to a Catholic school around the corner.” (pg 387)
- She wrote for some of the best magazines in America:
- Vanity Fair:
- Dorothy Parker: at Vanity Fair magazine that she had followed the
- Elevated Eyebrow School of Journalism….
- you could write about anything you wished no matter how outrageous
- so long as you said it in evening clothes.
- “Parker was treacle-sweet of tongue but vinegar witted.” (pg 35)
- The New Yorker:
- She bonded with her fellow writers during
- the daily lunches at The Round table at the Algonquin Hotel.
- During her five years as Esquire’s book reviewer she wrote
- …46 columns, read more than 200 books.
- Parker loved dogs an felt less lonely with her beloved
- Dachshund Robinson trotting at her ankles.
- She insisted he be in her favorite portrait and is on the cover of this book.
- When I think of Dorothy Parker i remember only the lines
- “Men seldom make passes at girls who where glasses.”
- This book showed me that Parker wrote so much more.
- Big Blonde is regarded as the ‘perfect’ short story and
- “is perhaps the most intensely autobiographical of all her fiction.” (pg 195)
- Other short stories of interest are:
- A Telephone Call, Just a Little One, Sentiment, The Waltz, and The Garter.
- Parker’s personal life was tumultuous.
- Parker was divorced after 11 years of marriage.
- There would be no end to the number of men passing through
- her life in her Algonquin Hotel suite.
- They all had voices as “intimate as the rustle of sheets.” (pg 187)
- Parker had her own ‘niche’ carved out in American literary humour.
- She wrote poetry that was fashionably chic and ‘smart’.
- She was was her own best critic:
- “ There is poetry and there is not.”
- Her writing she believed fell into the latter group.
- Don’t you believe it…..her verse is stunning.
- It is always easier to revile….than extol.
- Parker died on June 7 1967.
- She told friends “don’t feel badly when I die,
- …because I’ve been dead for a long time.” (pg 406)
- Dorothy Parker was once asked to create an epitaph for her tombstone.
- She crafted several different candidates for inscription over the years:
- Excuse My Dust
- Here Lies the Body of Dorothy Parker. Thank God!
- This Is On Me
- If You Can Read This You’ve Come Too Close
- Wherever She Went, Including Here, It Was Against Her Better Judgment
- Last thoughts:
- It is sad that so many talented writers were plagued by alcoholism.
- Marguiete Duras, Dashiell Hammett, Dylan Thomas, Shirley Jackson
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway,
- Tennessee Williams, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver Eugene O’ Neill.
- I can now add Dorothy Parker to this list.
- When the doctor warned her she had an
- …enlarged liver when she was only 37 yrs old
- …she referred to this condition as ‘a dainty complaint.’
- She was an alcoholic writer and this book reveals
- the terrible price creativity can exert.
- Eye-opening biography that prepares me to read Parker’s writing.
- Parker thought of herself as a 20th century
- Becky Sharp from Thackery’s novel Vanity Fair.
- Parker’s fiesty, tough character is summed up in her quote;
- “If you can get through the twilight, you’ll live through the night.” (pg 400)
10 Comments Post a comment
I did not know much about Dorothy Parker either. We have a movie to watch: Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.
I cannot recommend this book enough!
If you do like an audio read….this will be perfect.
Parker’s acerbic wit, unconventional life and a cast of writers
she knows and lambasts is wonderful!
ps I should watch the movie as well!
This sounds great Nancy. Like you, I knew very little (i.e. nothing) about Parker – your snippets here are very tempting. A modern day Becky Sharp would be worth knowing!!
I don’t know anything about Parker either, but she sounds pretty awesome 🙂
Parker was a remarkable woman….who was not a ‘people pleaser’ from the get go.
She spoke her mind, spit in your eye…..and left the room with her nose high like a statesman!
I hope you enjoy this biography as much as I did…..it will even make you laugh!
Thanks, nice summary.
To your list of alcoholic writers you could add Richard Yates, whose stories partly remind me of Parker.