Before there was Fran Leibowitz, there was Dorothy Parker. Before there was practically anyone, there was Dorothy Parker. When it comes to expressing the pleasure and pain of being just a touch too smart to be happy, she's winner and still champion after all these years. Along with Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, and the rest of the Algonquin Round Table, she dominated American pop lit in the '20s and '30s; like Ginger Rogers, she did it all backwards. Parker's held up well--maybe the best of all of them.
This book is essential for any Parker fan, and an excellent way for new readers to make her acquaintance. It reprints her finest short stories and poems, some later articles, and all of her excellent "Constant Reader" book reviews from the Depression-era glory days of the New Yorker. The poetry, always light, has become brittle, sorry to say. But you've only to pick any story to be reminded that no middle-distance writer was better than Parker at her best.
Dorothy Parker doesn't just reveal the hypocrisies, vanities, myths, and foibles of her characters, she skewers them - in a style that is merciless, wickedly funny, and often sad. There is the rich and selfish Mrs. Whittaker: "Mrs. Whittaker's dress was always studiously suited to its occasion; thus, her bearing had always that calm that only the correctly attired may enjoy." And Mr. Durant, whose affair with his stenographer has taken an unfortunate, one might say pregnant, turn: "Mr. Durant wished to God that he had never seen Rose. He explained this desire to her." "The woman with the pink velvet poppies" repeatedly and at great length assures her host that she can't wait to meet the guest of honor because "I don't see why on earth it isn't perfectly all right to meet colored people. I haven't any feeling at all about it - not one single bit." Then there is Hobart Ogden, "a very good-looking young man indeed, shaped to be annoyed," who works his way through an unlimited number of women. Sometimes related in the first-person, sometimes by a third-person narrator, these stories show us what people can not, or will not, see themselves. Her stories, along with the play and book reviews that are included in this collection, are quick, sharp, and dazzling. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14
. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister
To say that Mrs. Parker writes well is as fatuous, I am afraid, as proclaiming that Cellini was clever with his hands . . . Mrs. Parker has an eye for people, an ear for language, and a feeling for the little things of life that are so immensely a part of the process of living. -- Ogden Nash