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.
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