dirac

Dorothy Parker

9 posts in this topic

Two editions of Dorothy Parker's verse are updated.

As her earliest poems near their first centennial, we may well ask if Parker’s poems will be widely read on their second one. It would take a wholesale rejection of modernism for her to be considered, like her beloved Housman, without a "yes, but"; still, the mere fact that two trade publishers have updated their editions is a good indication that she still has readers. Both the Complete Stories and the venerable The Portable Dorothy Parker remain in print, and there are plenty of copies of the Modern Library edition in the used bookstores. If academia was slow to take her up, that is the price of popularity; it’s always amazing that supposedly populist academics can so offhandedly reject works that the public loves. Even the feminists, at first put off by her grin-and-bear-it stance, have admitted her into the canon; there is a good selection of her verse (but no prose) in The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, sandwiched between Rebecca West and Genevieve Taggard. One wonders what she would make of the company. It could be worse.

Ah, those wicked feminists and academics, grinding their axes. One highly esteemed professor at my college offered a course in Dorothy Parker one semester. I took the course and was somewhat underwhelmed, which I didn't expect. He never gave the course again, deciding that there just wasn't enough, well, there, and I can't say he was wrong. There are some fine things but the body of work is very slight. It's sad, but true. I look forward to checking out the new editions. The Portable Dorothy Parker is the best introduction IMO.

Share this post


Link to post

I think Parker is great just because of her witticisms. I was just talking about her with someone at length about an hour ago. That may not make her a great prose writer or poet, but she made her mark. I recall in one of Paul Theroux's novels, he made a long passage of things reducible to 'just more Dorothy Parker'. Since her greatness is as a humourist, he would naturally say that, because, after at least 12 books I read when I somehow admired him tremendously, rapier-like humour was not one of his attributes. On the other hand, extreme mean-spiritidness was, and 'Picture Palace' is full of little letters of hate to Stieglitz, D.H. Lawrence and any number of luminaries. On the other hand, if Truman Capote had had his strong stamina and self-righteousness, he might not have crumbled so easily under the pressure of the East Siders he thought he was trying to 'honestly chronicle', although when you read the 3 chapters of 'Answered Prayers', it does come across considerably more like dishing the dirt. As John Dunne pointed out, he really wasn't nearly as much 'one of them' as he thought--as Gore Vidal rightly said, you find out about those people from Auchincloss.

Well, a whole course in Dorothy Parker would probably be a bit too much for almost any of us, but I'd never want 'A day without Talullah is like a month in the country' not to have been said. I was asking today about T.S. Eliot, we were talking about the 'vicious circle', I never saw that film. Was there a T.S. Eliot/Dorothy Parker tie-in?

Practically speaking, you can probably find all the clever one-liners of Parker with just a little googling. I never think of her as anything else.

Share this post


Link to post

I don't know that Parker alone would constitute enough material for an entire course, but "The Algonquin Wits and Modernism" certainly would make a semester pass quickly. You could be sure that all the students would read the course material, especially with Edna Ferber there!

Noël Coward: (to Ferber, wearing a "man-tailored" suit) Why Edna, you look almost like a man.

Ferber: Why thank you, Noël, so do you.

Share this post


Link to post

Ouch. :wub:

Too bad some of those fabled exchanges don’t seem to have happened. I wonder if the Table could sustain even a semester on its own. I happen to enjoy Ferber’s novels as a guilty pleasure but many of her plays with Kaufman haven’t endured too well, which is also true of the Table’s other playwrights although they were big names and Pulitzer Prize winners in their time. Of the chief members, probably the one who made the most lasting contribution was a non-writer, Harold Ross of The New Yorker. Ring Lardner used to swing by occasionally, but by and large the writers who really mattered had other things to do.

I was asking today about T.S. Eliot, we were talking about the 'vicious circle', I never saw that film. Was there a T.S. Eliot/Dorothy Parker tie-in?

Not that I know of. The movie, “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle,” is strange. Once you can get your mind around Matthew Broderick as Charles MacArthur and Campbell Scott as Robert Benchley, there’s Jennifer Jason Leigh’s bourbon-and-Quaaludes drawl to contend with, which may or may not be true to life but is distracting as all getout (I think Leigh was listening to some of those last recordings of Parker and took the wrong hints from them).

Share this post


Link to post
Noël Coward: (to Ferber, wearing a "man-tailored" suit) Why Edna, you look almost like a man.

Ferber: Why thank you, Noël, so do you.

This is uncannily like an old report Michael Musto, the Village Voice gossip columnist wrote upon running into Liz Smith at some event:

Liz: Oh my God, Michael, you look so BUTCH!

Michael: Oh Liz, so do YOU!

Share this post


Link to post
Too bad some of those fabled exchanges don't seem to have happened. I wonder if the Table could sustain even a semester on its own.

Such a course as I envision wouldn't be limited to the Table encounters themselves, at either the "Board meetings" or the various "Thanatopsis Literary and Inside Straight Club" poker sessions. The Board seemed somewhat like Gottschalk's view of time: variable by location and circumstance. The Circle lasted from 1919 to 1932, but the members had achieved before and after that time. Required reading/viewing would include The Front Page, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and other works of the membership, including Mrs. Parker's friendship with people like W.E.B. Dubois, whom she clearly did not understand. The Circle did not merely attempt to set tastes, Samuel Johnson-like, but also reflected them, sometimes at an unfortunate level of common denominators. A consideration of their collective careers could make a helluva course, probably interdisciplinary. The format would, of course, be a symposium.

Share this post


Link to post

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,

A medley of extemporanea;

And love is a thing that can never go wrong,

And I am Marie of Roumania.

:)

Share this post


Link to post
Too bad some of those fabled exchanges don't seem to have happened. I wonder if the Table could sustain even a semester on its own.

Such a course as I envision wouldn't be limited to the Table encounters themselves, at either the "Board meetings" or the various "Thanatopsis Literary and Inside Straight Club" poker sessions. The Board seemed somewhat like Gottschalk's view of time: variable by location and circumstance. The Circle lasted from 1919 to 1932, but the members had achieved before and after that time. Required reading/viewing would include The Front Page, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and other works of the membership, including Mrs. Parker's friendship with people like W.E.B. Dubois, whom she clearly did not understand. The Circle did not merely attempt to set tastes, Samuel Johnson-like, but also reflected them, sometimes at an unfortunate level of common denominators. A consideration of their collective careers could make a helluva course, probably interdisciplinary. The format would, of course, be a symposium.

I see what you mean. If you used ancillary and intermittent members of the Circle in addition to those who are considered the heart of the regular membership they could hold each other up, so to speak. Drop-bys like Donald Ogden Stewart and Herman Mankiewicz probably contributed more of lasting value in the cinema than any of the Table's playwrights did in the theater. You could also work in writers like Thurber who were critical of the Circle. The students would certainly learn something about the nature of sic transit gloria mundi.

Share this post


Link to post
Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,

A medley of extemporanea;

And love is a thing that can never go wrong,

And I am Marie of Roumania.

:)

Ain't it the truth.

Share this post


Link to post