Dorothy Parker, Born This Day, 1893

“By the time you swear you’re his,
Shivering and sighing.
And he vows his passion is,
Infinite, undying.
Lady make note of this —
One of you is lying.”

The Young Dorothy Parker

The Young Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker was a writer, political activist, and poet.  She was also one of America’s great wits.

I’ve been a life-long fan, ever since my mother introduced me to her works when I was but a callow schoolboy.  Parker gave me an early glimpse at the possibilities of life in the city, where charming people traded sophisticated banter.  So very different from the conversations in my isolated little hometown, where the most passionate discussions centered on how many days were left until the start of deer hunting season.

Parker’s heyday was the 1920s, when she wrote for Vanity Fair and The New Yorker.  She was one of the original members of the Algonquin Round Table, an ever-changing group of newspaper columnists, actors, novelists, painters, and playwrights who lunched at New York’s Algonquin Hotel.  Having a seat at The Round Table meant that you’d reached the absolute pinnacle of that part of New York society that lived for glittering repartee.

Résumé

“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.”


Many of the Algonquin set have faded into obscurity—there’s not a big readership for 90-year-old theatre reviews or newspaper columns—but Dorothy Parker has held up better than most.

There’s a small but lively Dorothy Parker Society, which conducts a Dorothy Parker Upper West Side Walking Tour, sometimes followed by lunch at the Algonquin.  The Society will be celebrating  the 123rd anniversary of her birth with the walking tour on Monday morning at 11:45, and a birthday party at 7:00 PM.

The Los Angeles Chapter will raise a toast as well.  Details at the link.

“In youth, it was a way I had,
To do my best to please.
And change, with every passing lad
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know
And do the things I do,
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you.”

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