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September 27, 2017


Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?

by NancyElin



  1. Iconic American writer, Dorothy Parker (1893 – 1967)
  2. ….who has fallen between the cracks.
  3. Pour yourself a glass of red wine, or as
  4. Dorothy called it ‘The Red Badge of Courage’
  5. and spend hours with this feisty lady!



  1. Dorothy Parker is one of the writers that have slipped between the cracks.
  2. I know of her….but know nothing about her.
  3. Parker described her self as a mongrel.
  4. “My father was a Rothschild, her mother was a goy;
  5. ..and I went to  a Catholic school around the corner.” (pg 387)
  6. She wrote for some of the best magazines in America:
  7. Vanity Fair:
  8. Dorothy Parker: at Vanity Fair magazine that she had followed the
  9. Elevated Eyebrow School of Journalism….
  10. you could write about anything you wished no matter how outrageous
  11. so long as you said it in evening clothes.
  12. “Parker was treacle-sweet of tongue but vinegar witted.” (pg 35)
  13. The New Yorker:
  14. She bonded with her fellow writers during
  15. the daily lunches at The Round table  at the Algonquin Hotel.
  16. Esquire:
  17. During her five years as Esquire’s book reviewer she wrote
  18. …46 columns, read more than 200 books.


  1. Parker loved dogs an felt less lonely with her beloved
  2. Dachshund Robinson trotting at her ankles.
  3. She insisted he be in her favorite portrait and is on the cover of this book.
  4. When I think of Dorothy Parker i remember only the lines
  5. “Men seldom make passes at girls who where glasses.”
  6. This book showed me that Parker wrote so much more.
  7. Big Blonde is regarded as the ‘perfect’ short story and
  8. “is perhaps the most intensely autobiographical of all her fiction.” (pg 195)
  9. Other short stories of interest are:
  10. A Telephone Call, Just a Little One, Sentiment, The Waltz, and The Garter.
  11. Parker’s personal life was tumultuous.
  12. Parker was divorced after 11 years of marriage.
  13. There would be no end to the number of men passing through
  14. her life in her Algonquin Hotel suite.
  15. They all had voices as “intimate as the rustle of sheets.” (pg 187)


  1. Parker had her own ‘niche’ carved out in American literary humour.
  2. She wrote poetry that was fashionably chic and ‘smart’.
  3. She was was her own best critic:
  4. “ There is poetry and there is not.”
  5. Her writing she believed fell into the latter group.
  6. Don’t you believe it…..her verse is stunning.
  7. It is always easier to revile….than extol.


  1. Parker died on June 7 1967.
  2. She told friends “don’t feel badly when I die,
  3. …because I’ve been dead for a long time.” (pg 406)
  4. Dorothy Parker was once asked to create an epitaph for her tombstone.
  5. She crafted several different candidates for inscription over the years:
  6. Excuse My Dust
  7. Here Lies the Body of Dorothy Parker. Thank God!
  8. This Is On Me
  9. If You Can Read This You’ve Come Too Close
  10. Wherever She Went, Including Here, It Was Against Her Better Judgment


  1. Last thoughts:
  2. It is sad that so many talented writers  were plagued  by alcoholism.
  3. Marguiete Duras, Dashiell Hammett, Dylan Thomas, Shirley Jackson
  4. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway,
  5. Tennessee Williams, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver Eugene O’ Neill.
  6. I can now add Dorothy Parker to this list.
  7. When the doctor warned her she had an
  8. …enlarged liver when she was only 37 yrs old
  9. …she referred to this condition as ‘a dainty complaint.’
  10. She was an alcoholic writer  and this book reveals
  11. the terrible price creativity can exert.
  12. Eye-opening  biography that prepares me to read Parker’s writing.
  13. Parker  thought of herself as a 20th century 
  14. Becky Sharp from Thackery’s novel Vanity Fair.
  15. Parker’s  fiesty, tough character  is summed up in her quote;
  16. “If you can get through the twilight, you’ll live through the night.” (pg 400)
  17. #MustRead
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10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sep 28 2017

    I did not know much about Dorothy Parker either. We have a movie to watch: Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.

    • Sep 28 2017

      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!

  2. Oct 5 2017

    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!!

  3. Oct 13 2017

    I don’t know anything about Parker either, but she sounds pretty awesome 🙂

    • Oct 13 2017

      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… will even make you laugh!

  4. henrik
    Jan 31 2021

    Thanks, nice summary.

  5. Henrik
    Jan 31 2021

    To your list of alcoholic writers you could add Richard Yates, whose stories partly remind me of Parker.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. #NonFicNov 2017 Week 1 | NancyElin
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