Dorothy Parker, who died fifty years ago today, wrote dreary short stories, bad plays and poetry that no one remembers. None of which matters because the waspish one-liners that emanated from her pen and lips are immortal.
We all have our favourites. I thought I would share a few of mine.
The one that strikes a particular chord with me is this: “I hate writing, I love having written”. Those of us who have at one time or another wielded a pen in pursuit of a living know exactly what she meant.
Parker on drink, for which she had a prodigious appetite: “One more drink and I’ll be under the host”. And this: “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy”. It was once suggested that she join Alcoholics Anonymous. She tried it, but quickly dropped out, on the grounds that “they want me to give it up now!”
One of the most famous quotes attributed to Parker was her response to the performance of Katherine Hepburn in a Broadway play, Christopher Strong. “She runs all the emotions from A to B.”
She had by all accounts a peripatetic love life; hardly surprising in light of the following: “I require three things in a man: he must be handsome, ruthless and stupid”. When she had an abortion after an affair with playwright Charles Mac Arthur, she lamented, “It served me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard”.
Although a member of the famous literary circle, the Algonquin Club, which met regularly at a round table in the lobby of the hotel of that name, she was always short of money. She took a philosophical view of her struggles to make a decent living. “If you want to know what God thinks of money,” she quipped, “just look at the people he gave it to.” Now, that’s a thought that has crossed many a mind.
Finally, this gem. When a would-be suitor telephoned to find out why she had stood him up, she instructed a companion, “Tell him I was too fucking busy – or vice versa”.
They just don’t make ‘em like Dorothy any more.