The Legendary Dorothy Parker
favo(u)rite sentences from the NYRB
It didn’t hurt that she was very pretty, very sexy, and had a somewhat checkered personal life.
Yet — always just, if not always kind — she recognized and saluted real achievement when she actually came upon it.
Meanwhile, her verses and stories were appearing profusely and everywhere: not only in upscale places like Vanity Fair (which was happier to publish her than employ her),The Smart Set, and The American Mercury, but also in the popular Ladies’ Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post, Life (when it was still a comic magazine), and — starting with its second issue early in February 1925 — her old pal Harold Ross’s new venture, The New Yorker, with which she would have an extended on-again, off-again love affair.
er subjects are serious, but her cleverness undercuts them: there’s almost always a last line, a sardonic zinger, to signal that even if she does care, the more fool she.
Nor did she have much respect for what she and her second husband, the handsome, possibly gay actor and writer Alan Campbell, whom she married twice, did in Hollywood. (She liked referring to him publicly as “the wickedest woman in Paris.”)
Her emotional life was less consistent.
Her most impassioned praise is reserved for Isadora Duncan. Despite calling it “abominably written,” she characterized Duncan’s posthumous autobiography, My Life, as
an enormously interesting and a profoundly moving book. Here was a great woman; a magnificent, generous, gallant, reckless, fated fool of a woman. There was never a place for her in the ranks of the terrible, slow army of the cautious. She ran ahead, where there were no paths.
Parker would always rise to the challenges of greatness and of garbage; it was what fell in between that drove her crazy.
“Her voice, her intonations, her bursts of hard laughter and flaming fury — great is the least that you can call them.”
Dorothy Parker was too smart to buy the legend and too clearheaded to slide into nostalgia.
The tragedy of Dorothy Parker, it seems to me..was that she was too intelligent to believe that she had made the most of herself.