Dorothy Parker (August 22, 1893 – June 7, 1967) was an American writer and poet, best known for her caustic wit, wisecracks, and sharp eye for 20th century urban foibles.
In 1919, her career took off while writing theatre criticism for Vanity Fair, initially as a stand-in for the vacationing P.G. Wodehouse. At the magazine she met Robert Benchley, who became a close friend, and Robert E. Sherwood. They began lunching at the Algonquin Hotel, among the founding members of the Algonquin Round Table. They were soon joined by Franklin Pierce Adams and Alexander Woollcott (both newspaper columnists who published Parker's witticisms), Harold Ross, Harpo Marx and many others.
Parker's caustic wit as a critic initially proved popular, but she was eventually terminated by Vanity Fair in 1920 after her criticisms began to offend too often. In solidarity, both Benchley and Sherwood resigned in protest.
When Harold Ross founded The New Yorker in 1925, she and Benchley were considered part of the staff, though at first they contributed little to the magazine. Parker was soon writing for The New Yorker as well.
Parker became famous for her short, viciously humorous poems, many about the perceived ludicrousness of her many (largely unsuccessful) romantic affairs and others wistfully considering the appeal of suicide. She never considered these poems as her most important works.
Her greatest period of productivity and success came in the next 15 years. She published seven volumes of short stories and poetry: Enough Rope, Sunset Gun, Laments for the Living, Death and Taxes, After Such Pleasures, Not So Deep as a Well (collected poems) and Here Lies. After her death, the critic Brendan Gill noted that these titles "amounted to a capsule autobiography." Some of this work was originally published in The New Yorker, to which she also contributed acerbic book reviews, under the byline "Constant Reader"; these were widely read and later published in a collection under that name. (Her response to a moment of whimsy in A. A. Milne's The House at Pooh Corner: "Tonstant Weader fwowed up.") She wrote or co-wrote several plays as well, some well-reviewed, though none of lasting note.
Her best-known story, published in Bookman Magazine under the title "Big Blonde," was awarded the O. Henry Award as the most outstanding short story of 1929. Her short stories, though often witty, were also spare and incisive, and more bittersweet than comic. She eventually separated from her husband, and had affairs with reporter-turned-playwright Charles MacArthur, and with the publisher Seward Collins.
She also was heard occasionally on radio, including Information Please (as a guest) and Author, Author (as a regular panelist). She wrote for the Columbia Workshop, and both Ilka Chase and Tallulah Bankhead used her material for radio monologues.
Men (file info) —
- A 30-second excerpt of Dorothy Parker's Men (Text of poem)
Problems listening to the file? See media help. Spoken word recordings
The section could be improved by integrating relevant items into the main text and removing inappropriate items.
At the height of her fame, George Oppenheimer wrote a play based on Parker, Here Today (1932); the character based on her was portrayed by Ruth Gordon.
Her life was the subject of the 1982 EZTV video Dorothy and Alan at Norma Place,
Her name is used in the opening verse of the Al Stewart song "The Age of Rhythm", from the album "Between the Wars" (1995). The verse is, "Today I feel like Dorothy Parker / Today I've got the critical eye". Movies