Dorothy Parker: An American Centenary

By Horder, Mervyn | Contemporary Review, December 1993 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Dorothy Parker: An American Centenary


Horder, Mervyn, Contemporary Review


TRANSATLANTIC centenaries are not much observed, or even noticed on this side, and it comes as something of a jolt to find that two American entertainers whose products have earned an honoured place in the consciousness of most British intellectuals have already reached this venerable condition -- Cole Porter last year, and Dorothy Parker this one. Dorothy Parker, Dotty to her friends and the journalists, died in 1967 but is still popularly referred to as ~the immortal D.P.'. She had a lamentably disordered life-three times married (twice to the same man), abortion, attempted suicide, and progressive reliance on the Scotch bottle, which, as we all know, is apt to take away quite quickly whatever pleasures it gives. Her health can hardly have been improved by having to drink bootleg through the whole period of Prohibition in America, 1920-33, the years of her peak creativity.

Since her death there have been at least four full-length biographies chronicling her unhappy career in the pejorative manner now fashionable; so that now is the time to recall Ernest Hemingway's remark (in Death in the Afternoon) that ~a major art cannot ever be judged until the unimportant physical rotten-ness of whoever made it is well buried', and turn to her work instead. This is conveniently available as The Collected Dorothy Parker in the Penguin Modem Classics Series.

None of her prose stories exceeds ten thousand words (the length of the average Sherlock Holmes stort story), none of her poems forty lines (and some of the best are less than ten); but somehow her forlorn, querulous little voice is still to be heard when those of her robuster more chest-thumping contemporaries are silent for ever. She was a kind of female Housman, her speciality unrequited or misdirected love, her tone generally despondent, her vehicle verse of unfailing neatness, crying out to be read aloud and making an instant effect in that form. In addition to her original work, which is even more exiguous in extent than it sounds, a full third of her Penguin collection being taken up with her ephemeral book and theatre reviews, a hard core of her spoken remarks has been handed down in biographies and elsewhere, and in these the black diamonds of her wit coruscate as intensely as ever. Such collections of these sayings as have appeared here so far have not always been wisely edited; so that it is possible to offer below, in no particular order, some supplementary, less familiar, gleanings of merit from the harvest:

"Scratch an actor and find an actress."

"I like to think of my shining tombstone. It gives me, as you might

say, something to live for."

To a New York cabby who said he was engaged: "Then be happy!"

"As far as I am concerned, the most beautiful word in the English

language is ~cellar-door'.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Dorothy Parker: An American Centenary
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.