Happy Birthday, Ms. Parker

Wednesday, August 22, 2007 at 9:03 AM


Four be the things I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe.
Four be the things I'd been better without:
Love, curiousity, freckles, and doubt.
Three be the things I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.
Three be the things I shall have till I die:
Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.

-Dorothy Parker, Enough Rope, 1926

Lately, I've been on a big 1930s kick. There's something about the bobbed hair and Benny Goodman records that makes me want to stop what I'm doing and pick up a book of Dorothy Parker poems.

Born today in 1893, Dorothy Parker was ahead of her time. Famous for her sharp tongue and acerbic wit, she was prolific in the '30s and '40s, writing short stories, poems, and strongly worded reviews. The only female member of the Algonquin Round Table, she regularly contributed to Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. It's said that when her telephone rang, she would answer by asking, "What fresh hell is this?" and she once wrote, about her birthday, that she had something "terrible" to remember: "Not just plain terrible. This was fancy terrible; this was terrible with raisins in it."

You can find much of what was written by and about Dorothy Parker with Google Book Search, including this fascinating personal account from 1922. When I checked it out at the library, the kind gentleman librarian there said, "I'm so happy to see young people are still reading great books." Certainly, Dorothy Parker's writing makes for a great book, and remembering her birthday is the opposite of terrible. Happy birthday, Ms. Parker, wherever you are.


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