Friday, July 31, 2020

Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker is easily the most quoted American author known for her caustic wit and sharp tongue. An American Oscar Wilde, if you will. She had the brains and the bite. Dorothy Rothschild, not those Rothschilds, was born in New Jersey but quickly whisked back to New York, so as she could be a true New Yorker. Once her mother died her relationship with her father was contentious until his death when she was twenty. A year later she sold her first poem to Vanity Fair, a magazine she would eventually work at after a two year stint at Vogue. In fact she'd bounce around the various New York publications, from The New Yorker to Esquire and all those in between, for many years, though it was her work as the theatre critic for Vanity Fair, where she was filling in for P.G. Wodehouse when he was on vacation, that made her career take off. This time in her life was centered around her lunches at the Algonquin Round Table. She held her own as one of the few women at a table of (almost) equally smart and wisecracking male colleagues.

As a member of the Algonquin Round Table she became famous as much for her biting remarks as for her brilliant writing. A prolific poet and critic, Dorothy published more than 300 poems in the 1920s. The collection of her writing, The Portable Dorothy Parker, has never gone out of print. Her romantic life was a bit of a roller-coaster, marrying Edwin Parker just before he was deployed in the Great War, by the time he was demobbed their marriage was over. Numerous affairs led to a pregnancy, an abortion, and her first suicide attempt in that order. She had slightly better luck with her second husband, Alan Campbell, even if at times it was tempestuous their union brought about two Oscar nominations for Best Writing-Screenplay. The looming second war brought out Dorothy's political side, she took up pet political causes, and numerous pets, and eventually bequeathed her literary estate to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After his assassination her estate passed to the NAACP. For her tombstone epitaph she suggested “Excuse My Dust.”


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