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February 28, 2007 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Dorothy Parker in her own words. Audio clips of Ms. Parker reading her own work in 1964, near the end of her life.
posted by hermitosis (33 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Her legacy is interesting in more than just the literary sense. Via wikipedia:

"Parker died of a heart attack at the age of 73 in 1967 at the Volney residential hotel in New York City. In her will, she bequeathed her estate to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. foundation. Following King's death, her estate was passed on to the NAACP. Her executor, Lillian Hellman, bitterly but unsuccessfully contested this disposition. Her ashes remained unclaimed in various places, including a file cabinet, for approximately 17 years. The NAACP eventually claimed Parker's remains and designed a memorial garden for them outside their Baltimore headquarters. The plaque reads:

Here lie the ashes of Dorothy Parker (1893 - 1967) humorist, writer, critic. Defender of human and civil rights. For her epitaph she suggested, 'Excuse my dust'. This memorial garden is dedicated to her noble spirit which celebrated the oneness of humankind and to the bonds of everlasting friendship between black and Jewish people. Dedicated by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. October 28, 1988."
posted by hermitosis at 9:11 AM on February 28, 2007


Read "Big Blond".
Now.
Today.
Best short story ever.

Good work, herm...!
posted by Dizzy at 9:18 AM on February 28, 2007


Awesome!!!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:27 AM on February 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting this, and thanks hermitosis. When I saw at the end of Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (a really disappointing film I thought) that she'd given her estate to Martin Luther King, I was floored. She was, I don't know, authentic?
posted by serazin at 9:33 AM on February 28, 2007


This is so exciting, she has been one of my longtime heroes - I have all of her poems, and all of her in-print short stories. I'm at work so I can't do more than browse the text on the link but I'm very much looking forward to hearing her voice!

The link also lent me to the Verve website to look for the album she recorded for them, and reminded me about how much I like Verve's catalog.
posted by ugf at 9:36 AM on February 28, 2007


And Resume is one of the best little bits of light humor ever (even if she had a mixed relationship with her own little poems):

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.
posted by serazin at 9:36 AM on February 28, 2007


And I'm not sure if she really said this, but I like to quote it when I'm drinking martinis:

I wish I could drink like a lady,
I'll have one or two at the most.
Three and I'm under the table,
Four and I'm under the host.

(OK - stopping now)
posted by serazin at 9:38 AM on February 28, 2007


She's got some of these poems/readings in the book Poetry Speaks (great book). This greatly expands the selection. Excellent. Thanks.
posted by teece at 9:38 AM on February 28, 2007


I think there is some controversy whether the gesture was "authentic" or one last twist of the knife towards Hellman and the other people close to her. She died a pretty miserable alcoholic who had driven most of the people out of her life for good. And yeah, that movie was bad. She deserved better.
posted by vronsky at 9:40 AM on February 28, 2007


Ahhhh...I had an mp3 of "Men" that I put on certain mixes, but these trump that, just a little. Thank you.
posted by redsparkler at 9:42 AM on February 28, 2007


vronsky - interesting. That seems, sadly, plausible.

Anyone want to recommend a good biography?
posted by serazin at 9:46 AM on February 28, 2007


Dorothy Parker:

"I love to drink Martinis,
Two at the very most,
Three I'm under the table,
Four I'm under the host."

Source: Favorite Drinks of the Rich and Famous

"This wasn't just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it."

Tallulah Bankhead: "Why, it's as easy as ducking for apples."
Dorothy Parker: "Hah, change one letter in that sentence and you've got the story of my life."

Source: Dorothy Parker - Wikiquote

Dorothy Parker is a gem.
posted by cup at 9:48 AM on February 28, 2007


This is completely fantastic. I'm a huge fan, but have never heard her voice. She sounds marvelously full of bile. And she has far more of a patrician accent than I hear in my head when I read her, though I guess that was SOP for the times. Would have loved to hear her in her youth.
posted by poxuppit at 9:51 AM on February 28, 2007


Anyone want to recommend a good biography?

What Fresh Hell Is This, is what you want.
posted by poxuppit at 9:55 AM on February 28, 2007


My friend just recommended to me the biography YOU MIGHT AS WELL LIVE.
posted by hermitosis at 10:03 AM on February 28, 2007


serazin:

And I'm not sure if she really said this, but I like to quote it when I'm drinking martinis

I have seen it attributed to her in a few places so I am pretty sure she did say it (or something very similar to it).

And she did love her martinis:

She chain-smoked her Chesterfields as usual, and slugged down martini after martini. (from the website in hermitosis' original post)

By the way, thank you hermitosis! Excellent find!
posted by cup at 10:10 AM on February 28, 2007


Rainy Night:
I am sister to the rain;
Fey and sudden and unholy,
Petulant at the windowpane,
Quickly lost, remembered slowly.
posted by boo_radley at 10:15 AM on February 28, 2007


You can lead a whore to culture, but you can't convince her Dorothy Parker is almost as terribly overrated as Langston Hughes.
posted by four panels at 10:35 AM on February 28, 2007


Great Bookforum article on Parker's later life here.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:36 AM on February 28, 2007


"Just remember, martinis are like breasts"
"One is too few and three are too many".

Quoth Parker or a kindred spirit.
posted by lalochezia at 10:42 AM on February 28, 2007


Previous post on the Bookforum article.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:02 AM on February 28, 2007


You can lead a whore to culture, but you can't convince her Dorothy Parker is almost as terribly overrated as Langston Hughes.

I think Oscar Wilde is the better comparison. Witty and refreshing a sentence or two at a time, unbearably self-obsessed in larger doeses, and famous mostly as role models for well-educated drunks.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:41 AM on February 28, 2007


"Dorian Grey" is a great book.

And the unreadable William Faulkner is the most overrated author of all time by a landslide.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:59 AM on February 28, 2007


Oops, apparently I forgot to add the "your favorite overrated author sucks" tag.
posted by hermitosis at 12:13 PM on February 28, 2007


I think Oscar Wilde is the better comparison. Witty and refreshing a sentence or two at a time, unbearably self-obsessed in larger doeses, and famous mostly as role models for well-educated drunks.

And what's wrong with that?

*swills gin, waves diploma around*
posted by hilatron at 12:33 PM on February 28, 2007


The little I know of Dorothy Parker comes from a book of collected quotes, a sort of anti-Bartleby's, called The Portable Curmudgeon, and Parker's always stood out from the rest.
posted by lekvar at 12:34 PM on February 28, 2007


nebulawindphone: Ah, but she was inspired by Mr. Wilde:
A Pig's-Eye View of Literature: Oscar Wilde
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.
posted by boo_radley at 12:47 PM on February 28, 2007


Oh good. If I'm full of shit, it's at least well-precedented shit.

Wait, is well-precedented a word?
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:16 PM on February 28, 2007


You want "The Portable Dorothy Parker" (Vintage). Very cheap used. I've liked her since I read mom's copy as a kid.
posted by lathrop at 1:25 PM on February 28, 2007


I just read Big Blond[e] at your recommendation Dizzy and I don't get it.
posted by ND¢ at 1:41 PM on February 28, 2007


Is there any explanation for Jennifer Jason Leigh's weird affected voice in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle?
posted by bobobox at 3:11 PM on February 28, 2007


NDcents---
Just think "Anna Nicole Smith", but in the 1920's...
posted by Dizzy at 12:07 AM on March 1, 2007


For me, for my late two cents, and I've been thinking about this a lot lately, Big Blonde is the one work by Dorothy Parker that rises up into high fiction, high literature, whatever. The sort of art that you capitalize. The scope of it, paired with the tone that a lot of her stories take, somehow synthesizes just right to be Something. The rest of her short stories, as much as I adore them, never make it that far.

They are parodic sketches, they are witty jokes or class observations extended, but they never reach the same point as Big Blonde, the same big scope and narrow frame.

All the same, though, people continue to adore the Dorothy Parker, and when you bring her up in a conversation everyone wants to contribute their favorite lines. That remark about Langston Hughes up there stung a bit, admittedly, because he could turn some phrases that made me love him madly when I was only just discovering poetry and that era, but I don't think you'll find people quite as eager to clamber all over themselves to get just the right words for their quotings, not like they will for Dottie.

I think what amazes me about Parker the most, besides her wit, more so than Wilde, is how she subsists so long after her death on the barest of literary bones. No great novel, most poems leaning towards clever rather than worldchanging. And I think that's great, and needed. It reassures me that one is not necessarily required to be Hemingway to last and be loved for what one writes. It's that character that hung up those brilliant one-liners up on the walls of so-so sketches. And, once, she wrote a story that was truly great.

(Although, God knows, upon viewing my Metafilter history, I'm quite unlikely to be the second coming of Dorothy Parker.)
posted by redsparkler at 1:09 AM on March 6, 2007


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