Why I love Dorothy Parker

  
 
 
“I like best to have one book in my hand and a stack of others on the floor beside me so as to know the supply of poppy and mandragora will not run out before the small hours. In all reverence I say Heaven bless the Whodunit, the soothing balm on the wound, the cooling hand on the brow, the opiate of the people.”
 
 
 
“There’s life for you. Spend the best years of your life studying penmanship and rhetoric and syntax and Beowulf and George Eliot, and then somebody steals your pencil.”
 
 
 
“If you’re going to write, don’t pretend to write down. It’s going to be the best you can do, and it’s the fact that it’s the best you can do that kills you.”
 
 
 
“Indeed, it turns out that as a source of entertainment, conviviality, and good fun, she ranks somewhere between a sprig of parsley and a single ice-skate.”
  
  
 
Faute de Mieux
 
Travel, trouble, music, art,
A kiss, a frock, a rhyme –
I never said they feed my heart,
But still they pass my time.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
“I know that there are things that never have been funny, and never will be. And I know that ridicule may be a shield, but it is not a weapon.”
 
 
 
“There’s a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words.”
 
 
 
“This is me apologizing. I am a fool, a bird-brain, a liar and a horse-thief … I wouldn’t touch a superlative again with an umbrella.”
 
 
 
“This wasn’t just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.”
    
 
 
“What can you say when a man asks you to dance with him? I most certainly will not dance with you, I’ll see you in hell first. Why, thank you, I’d love to awfully, but I’m having labor pains. Oh, yes, do let’s dance together – it’s so nice to meet a man who isn’t a scaredy-cat about catching my beri-beri … I’d love to waltz with you. I’d love to waltz with you. I’d love to have my tonsils out. I’d love to be in a midnight fire at sea…” 
 
 
 
 
  
“The Monte Carlo casino refused to admit me until I was properly dressed so I went and found my stockings and then came back and lost my shirt.”
 
 
 
“Don’t let me take any horses home with me. It doesn’t matter so much about stray dogs and kittens, but elevator boys get awfully stuffy when you try to bring in a horse … Three highballs, and I think I’m St. Francis of Assisi.”
 
 
 
“I should have stayed home for dinner. I could have had something on a tray. The head of John the Baptist or something.”
 
 
 
“That woman speaks eighteen languages and can’t say No in any of them.”  
 
 
 
Unfortunate Coincidence
 
By the time you swear you’re his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying –
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.
 
 
 
 
 
 
   
“Sometimes I think I’ll give up trying, and just go completely Russian and sit on a stove and moan all day.”
 
 
 
“What fresh hell is this?”
 
 
 
“And you know those anecdotes that begin that way; me, I find them more efficacious than sheep-counting, rain on a tin roof, or alanol tablets.”
 
 
 
“They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.”
 
 
 
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.
 
 
 

 
 
“All I need is enough room to lay a hat and a few friends.”
 
 
 
“That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.”
 
 
 
“She wore a feather boa that was always getting into other people’s plates or was being set afire by other people’s cigarettes.”
 
– John Keats, You Might As Well Live
 
 
 
“She is a combination of Little Nell and Lady Macbeth.”
 
– Alexander Woollcott, ‘Our Mrs Parker’, While Rome Burns
 
 
 
“Parker was one of the wittiest people in the world and one of the saddest …”
 
– Brendan Gill, A New York Life: Of Friends and Others
 
 
 
*

 
Dorothy Parker interviewed by Marion Capron in The Paris Review.
 
Order The Portable Dorothy Parker.
 
Order Complete Poems.
 
Order A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York.
 
Visit The Dorothy Parker Society’s website.
  
Visit The Algonquin Round Table’s website.
   
 
 
 

4 thoughts on “Why I love Dorothy Parker

  1. Tilly Bud

    You missed two of my favourites:

    ‘If all the debutantes in New York were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.’

    Other quotes substitute ‘Yale’ for ‘New York’.

    Clare Booth Luce is said to have tried to go through a door before Parker, saying, ‘Age before beauty.’

    Parker swept through, replying ‘Pearls before swine.’

    I enjoyed this because there’s quite a few I don’t know.

  2. sjlewis39

    I love Dorothy Parker too – my favorite is :“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” – I’m sharing this on my Face Book page too.

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