Dorothy Parker

By: Ingrid Schorr
August 22, 2009


Despite her reputation as the witty gal of the Algonquin Round Table, DOROTHY PARKER (1893-1967) dismissed the clique as “just a lot of people telling jokes and telling each other how good they were.” They did help her gain a national renown, though, by quoting her lunchtime ad libs and verses in their newspaper columns. Those mordant verses (“Razors pain you/rivers are damp…”) don’t really endure (though they are fun to discover, and certainly I was one of those girls who would moan “What fresh hell is this?” when her dorm-room phone rang), and Parker’s numerous book and theater reviews for the New Yorker and Vanity Fair are remarkable more for their voice than their contribution to modern criticism. But her short stories, published mostly in the New Yorker between 1926 and 1955, sound and feel like the best of Marianne Faithful or Sleater-Kinney, with the melody coming from the jagged, crippled connections between Parker’s women and the obtuse, unhearing, or simply drunken men who fail, again and again, to “get” them. (Occasionally, the missed connection is between women, and no less bruising.) Parker famously had no truck with “the quaintsy-waintsy,” nostalgia, or the earnest or sedulous; she admired Lardner, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and Hemingway, and savaged formulaic writing — whether the subject was agony or sunshine. Blacklisted by Hollywood and the subject of a 1,000-page FBI dossier, she left her literary estate to the NAACP and an inadequate reputation to an unappreciative public.


ALGONQUIN TABLE ON HILOBROW: Dorothy Parker | Harpo Marx | George S. Kaufman

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: | George Herriman | The GZA |

READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Modernist (1884–93) and Hardboiled (1894-1903) Generations.