Dorothy Parker

Known for her brilliance and wit, Dorothy Parker was an established female writer during her lifetime. She published in Vanity FairThe New Yorker, and the Saturday Evening Post. On the Dorothy Parker Society’s website, Kevin Fitzpatrick notes that Dorothy Parker was one of three screenwriters of the 1937 adaptation of A Star is Born. Her reputation was, however, soured, as she was an open anti-fascist and labeled a Communist sympathizer, which resulted in her being “informally blacklisted” in 1949. It took approximately six years for her to be cleared by the FBI, and by then she “was in her 60s.”

Parker was part of The Algonquin Round Table, which may be considered in some ways to be the American counterpart of the Bloomsbury Group. With Edna Ferber and others, Parker partook in the “‘ten-year lunch’ of fabulous, if also ferocious, fun.” This parallels Hemingway’s sentiment that “if you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” Parker wrote of Hemingway’s Men Without Women in The New Yorker: “Mr. Hemingway’s style, this prose stripped to its firm young bones, is far more effective, far more moving, in the short story than in the novel. He is, to me, the greatest living writer of short stories; he is, also to me, not the greatest living novelist.”

Her writing style is sharp, yet concise, raising the question if Hemingway influenced her style at times. Unlike Hemingway, Parker’s wit makes the ink bleed deeper. Featured in The New Yorker in 1926, one needs to know nothing of her story “Oh! He’s Charming!” to grasp the tone of her work. The story centers around Miss Waldron being besotted by her favorite author, Mr. Pawling. Mr. Pawling is self-absorbed and bland, yet the story’s irony lies in the last few lines, where Miss Waldron and another woman exclaim how “charming” he is. The story’s most hilarious lines come from a conversation between Miss Waldron and Mr. Pawling. Miss Waldron asks if “Cicely Celtic in Various Knights and a Lady [was] drawn from real life.” Mr Pawling responds, “‘She was,’ he said, ‘and she wasn’t. Partly she was, and partly she wasn’t.'” Miss Waldron is pleased with his response.

 

Read more:
Photograph: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dorothy-Parker#/media/1/444073/18761
A Star is Born: https://dorothyparker.com/2018/04/1937-star-born-meet-2018-remake.html
Parker’s now-public FBI files: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/dorothy-parkers-fbi-file-available-public-first-time-decade-180969044/
The NYT on The Algonquin Round Table: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/20/opinion/the-vicious-fun-of-americas-most-famous-literary-circle.html
Parker on Hemingway: http://davidabramsbooks.blogspot.com/2012/05/short-story-month-dorothy-parker-on.html

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