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Dorothy Parker

By Joseph Glantz


Dorothy Parker
Dorothy Parker 1893 – 1967. Parker rose to acclaim, both for her literary works published in such magazines as The New Yorker and as a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table. Following the breakup of the circle, Parker traveled to Hollywood to pursue screenwriting. Her successes there, including two Academy Award nominations, were curtailed when her involvement in left-wing politics resulted in her being placed on the Hollywood blacklist.

Dismissive of her own talents, she deplored her reputation as a "wisecracker". Nevertheless, both her literary output and reputation for sharp wit have endured. 

Hello, Dorothy. Glad you could you join us. I’m looking forward to chatting about your life and remembering some of your bon mots. What do you think of the interview series?
I might repeat to myself, slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound; if I can remember any of the damn things. (The Little Hours in Here Lies; 1939))

What do you think of Twitter, Facebook, and social media?
It takes me six months to do a story. I think it out and then write it sentence by sentence—no first draft. I can’t write five words but that I change seven. (Interview, The Paris Review; Summer 1956)

So, lots of wonderful writers these todays, don’t you think?
If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy. (From a review of the revised edition of The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White published in Esquire; November 1959).

Let’s try some politics. Do you think Donald Trump has a sense of humor?
There's a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words. (Interview, The Paris Review; Summer 1956)

What do you think of Mike Pence?
When I was told Calvin Coolidge had died, I responded, “How could you tell. (attributed).

Mike Pence’s debate performance? You know. That one with the fly.
Mr. Hodge plays with his accustomed ease, even carrying the thing so far as to repeat many of his lines with his eyes shut; and in a pretty spirit of reciprocity, many members of the audience sit through the play with their eyes shut. (Dorothy Parker: Complete Broadway, 1920).

Do you think the GOP can return to any sense of normalcy?
You can't teach an old dogma new tricks. (Attributed to Parker after her death, by Robert E. Drennan The Algonquin Wits; 1968).

In other words?
It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard. (As quoted in - You Might as well Live by John Keats; 1970)

People who sell their soul for political power?
You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think. (Parker's answer when asked to use the word horticulture during a game of Can-You-Give-Me-A-Sentence?, as quoted in You Might as well Live by John Keats; 1970)

The prospect of a second Trump term?
What fresh hell can this be? (You Might As Well Live: The life and Times of Dorothy Parker, John Keats; 1970)

What kept you going during the Trump years?
Razors pain you,
Rivers are damp,
Acids stain you,
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful,
Nooses give,
Gas smells awful.
You might as well live.
(Resume. First printed in New York World; 16 August 1925. Enough Rope; 1926).

Can you explain the MAGA crowd?
They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm. (Fai Weather. First printed in New York World, 20 January 1928)

In other words?
I shall stay the way I am because I do not give a damn. (Attributed).

The GOP enablers?
Honesty means nothing until you are tested where you are sure you could get away with dishonesty. (Attributed).

Any thoughts on Senator Cunningham of North Carolina sexting when the Senate majority was at stake?
If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular? (Attributed).

Your thoughts on QAnon and other conspiracy groups?
To quote the only line of Gertrude Stein’s which I have ever been able to understand, “It is wonderful how I am not interested.” Chapter 1: 1918

Presidential debates?
You know how a play in dialect is. At the first act, you think, “How quaint!”; at the second act, you wish they would either stop using dialect or keep quiet; and at the third act, you wish you hadn’t come. And Tillie, may I mention in passing, has four acts. (Dorothy Parker: Complete Broadway, 1918–1923).

The 2020 Presidential Election results?
The play holds the season’s record, thus far, with a run of four evening performances and one matinée. By an odd coincidence, it ran just five performances too many.

Let’s talk about the sexes. Why do women persist?
Some men tear your heart in two,
Some men flirt and flatter,
Some men never look at you,
And that clears up the matter.
First Experience - printed in Life, (8 April 1926) p. 11. Enough Rope (1926).

What men think women think of them?
I require three things in a man. He must be handsome, ruthless, and stupid. (Attributed)

What women really think of?
Of course I talk to myself. I like a good speaker, and I appreciate an intelligent audience. (Attributed)

The need for women to say – I’m Speaking?
The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue. (Attributed)

In other words?
Don’t look at me in that tone of voice. (Attributed).

So, what did you think of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s judicial hearing?
She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B. (Attributed).

Any thoughts on our other writers?
If with the literate I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit.
We all assume that Oscar said it.
(First printed in Life; 2 June 1927) 

Going high when they go low?
Never throw mud: you can miss the target, but your hands will remain dirty. (Attributed)

The one percent?
If you want to know what God thinks about money, just look at the people he gives it to. (Attributed)

The attraction of Facebook?
If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me. (Attributed)
The only dependable law of life – everything is always worse than you thought it would be. (Attributed).

People who say – follow the rules? You know, Calvinists and such.
If I didn't care for fun and such,
I'd probably amount to much.
But I shall stay the way I am,
Because I do not give a damn.
(From Observation. First printed in New York World; 16 August 1925) Also in Enough Rope; 1926).

Ok. Time for some arts and culture. Let’s talk about New York? Why do you love Manhattan?
The musical comedies of the month are She’s a Good Fellow and The Lady in Red, both of which owe their book and lyrics to Anne Caldwell—evidently a native of New York, judged by the casualness with which she rhymes “teacher” and “reach a. (Dorothy Parker: Complete Broadway, 1918–1923).

The movie production of CATS?
If you arrive late, you won’t know what anything is about, and if you are there all the way from the beginning, you won’t care. (Dorothy Parker: Complete Broadway, 1918–1923).

So mysteries, dramas, or comedies?
The murdered man meets his death in an intriguing and novel manner, which the management asks its customers, as a personal favor, not to reveal to possible future audiences. It remains a secret, chummily shared by those that have seen the play and the four or five million who read it in its original form as a Saturday Evening Post story a year or so ago. (Dorothy Parker: Complete Broadway, 1918–1923).

Why people like revivals?
It is advertised as “a seagoin’ comedy,” and anytime they go leaving off the final g that way, you know what to expect. (Dorothy Parker: Complete Broadway, 1918–1923).

What’s the key to a good life?
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.
(From Comment. First printed in New York World, (16 August 1925). Also in Enough Rope; 1926).

Any advice for us as death nears?
Time may be a great healer, but it's a lousy beautician. (Attributed).

Copyright 2016 Joseph Glantz