“I don’t care what’s written about me so long as it isn’t true.”

Dorothy Parker was a collection of contradictions. She was a masterful short story writer, but never managed the full-length novel she always wanted to write.  For much of her life, she was a drunk, but she actually detested the taste of alcohol when she married Eddie Parker in 1917. She spent years in near poverty, working hard to distance herself from her not so humble beginnings as part of the wealthy Rothschild family of the Upper West Side. Her disdain for people and society was never subtle, and yet she was once arrested for marching in protest at the 1927 execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. The one constant in her life was the love of her dogs.

Dorothy Parker in 1921: still relatively unjaded. (Image courtesy of photobucket.)

I can’t pinpoint exactly what I love about Dorothy Parker, but if you ask A., he’ll tell you that it’s my love of snark and general state of contrariness that gives me an affinity for her and her caustic wit. She was insulting, uncooperative, self-destructive and often depressed, and terrible at choosing men, but she was also brilliant, funny, insightful, talented, and accomplished. I admire her work, her intelligence, and her independence in an age when women were barely seen fit to vote.

Today is Dorothy Parker’s birthday. She was born 118 years ago in New Jersey and spent most of her life in New York, perhaps even serving as a very symbol of the city as it was in the heyday of the 1920s. She made her way as a writer first for Vogue, where she wrote product reviews, and then for Vanity Fair, where she eventually replaced P.G. Wodehouse as drama critic until her dismissal in 1920 for drama reviews that proved a bit too sharp for the magazine. When Harold Ross founded The New Yorker in 1925, she was an editor and early contributor with short stories and acidic little poems. Here’s an example: Continue reading

Gearing up and paring down

The summer marches on and here we are in August. This is usually the part of the summer when I am aware of the impending fall semester, but there’s still enough time to get some projects done thanks to long days and no grading. This year, I’ve decided that the room I use as my office at home needs sprucing up to infuse some new energy into my work, and so I’m redecorating and painting (one wall of Glidden Rich Raisin, three walls of Glidden Clay Bisque). Because I will have to uproot many of my books from their normal resting place, I’ve decided that this is the perfect time to re-organize my collection of books.

Kicked out of their temporary housing, waiting for more permanent relocation.

This will be no small undertaking. The last time I counted, I had over 800 books. I’m sure I have more by now. For the past two years, I’ve been ferrying excess donations to a local public library from a friend’s house to a “Free Books” cart at the school library where I work. Students snatch them up fast. No matter how hard I try to resist, I can’t stop myself from looking through the new batch before bringing them to school. I always keep some for myself, so I’ve definitely picked up many more books than I would have if I had been only been purchasing them. My guess is that I’ve passed the 1,000 mark. Continue reading

Book Review: That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx

It’s been a while since I’ve done a book review and as I finished the last sentence of my first Annie Proulx novel, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to do another review. Reading this book has been a very interesting experience, though not in the way I expected. I had started it before my vacation, but chose not to bring it with me because I would finish it too fast and I didn’t want to schelp more than one book around while traveling. Picking it back up meant only a day’s interruption of my trek up Everest (i.e. reading War and Peace!)

That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx (Image courtesy of GoodReads.)

The story starts out a bit slowly and focuses on setting up our protagonist. Bob Dollar grew up in Denver with his Uncle Tam after his parents dropped him off, ostensibly on their way to Alaska where they would set up house and then send for him. They never did, though, and it’s fairly clear that they did not die in some horrible bear attack, but simply abandoned Bob and went off on their own. Bob tried to find them for a while but then accepted their absence and floated through life with his Uncle.

His Uncle Tam runs a second-hand store with a man named Wayne (or Bromo, as he’s often called) who also lives with them. They are obsessed with old plastics, especially Bakelite, and they never miss an episode of Antiques Roadshow. When Bromo decides he’s no longer infatuated with plastics and leaves to go to New York, there is the implication that the two men were lovers and had just broken up. Bob never really liked Bromo, but feels the effects of another parental figure leaving. Continue reading