Farewell, Dorothy Parker

9780399159077_p0_v1_s260x420The joy of being able to deliver a zinger when needed does not always come at the appropriate moment – unless you are Dorothy Parker.  Ellen Meister reincarnates this caustic critic, known for her quick wit and timely repartee in her romantic comedy  – Farewell, Dorothy Parker.

Violet, a movie critic with her own range of critical commentary, has trouble translating her unleashed literary verve into her personal life.   In the midst of being taken advantage of by her boyfriend, her dead sister’s in-laws, and a young aspiring editorial assistant, Violet inadvertently releases the ghost of Dorothy Parker from the famous Algonquin Round Table guest book.

When the book is open, Ms. Parker appears in all her glory – smoking, drinking gin, and lobbing one-liners.  As the story progresses, Meister fills in much of Parker’s biography – fun to renew if you are a fan of the famous nineteen twenties writer, a revelation if you only knew Dorothy Parker as the person who said: “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”

Eventually, Parker resolves her own fear of “going into the light,” and leaves Violet with renewed spunk to refreshingly live out her own life.  The story has melodramatic moments but it was a quick read on a Kindle that left me laughing and yearning to find some of Dorothy Parker’s short stories and poems (and wanting to lunch at the Algonquin).

One of my favorite Dorothy Parker poems:

“Four be the things I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe.
Four be the things I’d been better without:
Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt.
Three be the things I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.
Three be the things I shall have till I die:
Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.”

For A Taste of Dorothy Parker:

National Book Critics Circle Award Finalists

Algonquin Round Table Members

Celebrated wit and writer, Dorothy Parker, and her Algonquin Round Table live on in the National Book Critics Circle, founded in 1974 at the famous site in New York City where Parker, with contemporaries Alexander Woollcott, Edna Ferber, Roberty Benchley, Harpo Marx and other artists met in the 1920s over lunch to share ideas and critique their contemporaries.   The current group of freelance writers and critics continues the conversation and creates an annual award list of fiction, nonfiction, biography, poetry, criticism, and authobiography.

For me – another source of good books to read.

Last year’s winners included Sarah Blakewell’s How to Live: Or, A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer – one of my favorite biographies (read my review – here).

This year’s fiction finalists are:

  • Open City by Teju Cole (about a Nigerian graduate student in New York City)
  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (reviewed here)
  • The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst (reviewed here)
  • Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman (collection of short stories)
  • Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta (about the relationship between siblings)

War seemed to dominate the nonfiction finalists:

  • A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War 
  • To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918
  • Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary War

Happy Birthday, Dorothy Parker

from the Ascensios painting of the Circle

Today is Dorothy Parker’s birthday.  Famous for her biting wit, Parker wrote for Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, before making her mark as a screenwriter (A Star is Born).  You can still see her infamous Round Table at New York’s Algonquin Hotel, where she held court with Robert Benchley and Harpo Marx, among other writers of the twenties, and established it as New York City’s eternal literary flame.

Her short stories are online, and her quotes still float into conversation.  Some of my favorites:

The best way to keep children home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant – and let the air out of the tires.

I don’t care what is written about me as long as it isn’t true.

She won the O’Henry Award for Big Blond, but her classic, The Telephone Call, reminds me of high school.

Related Article:  Serving Stars But Never Gossip