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The Portable Dorothy Parker

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Book Overview

The second revision in sixty years, this sublime collection ranges over the verse, stories, essays, and journalism of one of the twentieth century's most quotable authors. In this new... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings


Before I bought this book, I admit that I (like most people) knew of Dorothy Parker only through her pithy one-liners and wisecracks (i.e. "men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses", or commenting that a performance of Katherine Hepburn "runs the gamut of emotions from A to B"). However, this wonderful compendium shows a much more versatile, prolific Dorothy Parker - she truly is much more than the bitter joker most people think. Although her short stories (including the oft-anthologized 'Big Blonde', as well as lesser-known gems such as 'Too Bad') formed the main part of the original 'Portable Dorothy Parker', this newly revised version includes those stories but also a wide variety of dramatic and literary criticisms (including a very enjoyable, incisive review of a performance of Oscar Wilde's play 'An Ideal Husband'), poetry, and letters. I found the letters to be especially fascinating - even when Parker was writing to her family and closest friends, she was still remarkably witty and erudite. In addition to the content by Parker herself, I thoroughly enjoyed the introduction by Marion Meade, the author of the Dorothy Parker biography "Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?" Although I have not read the previous edition of 'The Portable Dorothy Parker', I have heard that the introduction was very unpleasant because the writer seemed to not like Ms. Parker. Luckily, that is certainly not the case with Marion Meade's introduction - she obviously greatly respects Ms. Parker's body of work, and the introduction (which is really a 15-page biographical sketch of Parker) gives an positive impression of Ms. Parker overall, without glossing over the more unsavoury aspects of her life (such as her alcohol and sedative addictions). One inclusion in this version of the 'Portable' which I found especially intriguing as a transcript of an interview Dorothy Parker did with 'The Paris Review' in 1956. It really gives a sense of Ms. Parker's personality, and shows her views on a number of topics (including her own description of the famed 'Algonquin Round Table', of which she was a member). Lastly, the cover art for this version of the 'Portable' is absolutely fantastic. The cover is fanciful withough being needlessly silly, and the inner flaps and the back cover use whimsically retro line-drawings to illustrate, among other things, the major happenings in Dorothy Parker's life. The illustrator (Seth) has really done a great job making sure the work of Ms. Parker doesn't look too stodgy to the casual eye. I urge everyone to pick up a copy of this book, and discover the genius of Dorothy Parker for themselves - my words simply cannot do it justice.

One Perfect Rose After Another

On one occasion, when challenged by a friend to use the word 'horticulture' in a sentence, Dorothy Parker replied "You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think." Possessed of a razor sharp intelligence and a wicked turn of phrase, she stands as perhaps the single finest American wit and humorist of the early 20th Century. This expanded edition of THE PORTABLE DOROTHY PARKER collects all three of her volumes of poetry, both volumes of her collected short stories, and a great deal more besides--all of it guaranteed to give readers hour after delightful hour.Like her contemporary and only serious competitor James Thurber, Parker's work often focused on the battle of the sexes, and many of her short stories--such as "Dusk Before Fireworks," "You Were Perfectly Fine," and "Here We Are"--present savagely funny portaits of couples who are on the edge in more ways than one. She is also extremely famous for her 'monologue' stories, particularly "Telephone Call," in which the reader essentially overhears the thoughts of the character it portrays. But she is perhaps best remembered for her sharply comic poetry, which is typically written as a subverted 'jingle' that goes unexpectedly awry, often in the most morbid way imaginable; "One Perfect Rose" and "You Might As Well Live," to name but two, have been standards of American poetry collections since they were first published. And no theatrical critic has ever equalled Parker for sheer comic acidity.But Parker was not simply a humorist. While a number of her poems address deeper subjects--"Rainy Night" is particularly memorable--many of her short stories are intensely dramatic. "Big Blonde" details the slow decline of a woman who is passed from man to man, never finding happiness and drifting into alcoholism and attempted suicide; "Clothe the Naked" presents a touching portrait of a black woman struggling to survive in a hostile white world. Her eye for detail is remarkable; her style is distinctly her own, a mixture of the clinical and the wryly comic; be it comic or tragic, she is in full command of her art in every selection. This is one that belongs on your shelf, no question about it. Strongly, strongly recommended.

Excuse My Ink

It's not enough to say that Dorothy Parker was great, or that she was brilliant. It's hard to see from a distance her colossal impact on the literary world. When you buy this book (and you WILL buy it; these aren't the droids you're looking for) immediately read some of the very earliest stories. They are of WWI vintage or so. If you remember high school literature, short stories written just before Parker put pen to paper were the somewhat longer "chapter of a novel" type, of Guy de Maupassant, or W. Somerset Maugham. Dorothy Parker virtually invented the "slice of life" short story, which she brought to the New Yorker. This style became the standard of the fledgling magazine, popular with the public, and without a doubt helped get the magazine off the ground.This style is still the pervasive one today.Short stories were not all Mrs. Parker wrote. She wrote play reviews, and as Constant Reader book reviews. She could dismiss a play with "House Beautiful is Play Lousy," or take down her least favored AA Milne with "Tonstant Weader frowed up." She once spent the better part of a review complaining about her hang-over. She kept New Yorker readers coming back week after week, laugh junkies after a fix. And so she changed the voice of the reviewer as well. Previously, the reviewer voice had been detached and quite dry, rattling off obligatory lines about the costumes, the sets, the leading actor, the leading actress-- as predictable as the label on a shampoo bottle. The wonderful Libby Gelman-Waxner is her direct descendent. Pauline Kael is a niece, although she might have bristled at the suggestion. Andrew Harris and Elvis Mitchell can thank Mrs. Parker for their unfettered freedom.The best thing about reading this collection is discovering the sheer joy Mrs. Parker took in writing. She was good and she knew it.She once said, in reviewing the unfortunate book Debonair, that the curse of a satirist is that "she writes superbly of the things she hates," but when she tries to write of things she likes, "the result is appalling." Personally, I find Parker moving and eloquent in her reviews of the Journal of Katherine Mansfield, and Isadora Duncan's posthumously published autobiography, two books that touched and impressed her, but it is true that her distinctive voice croons most seductively when she doesn't like something. Unfortunately, one is left with the impression that she didn't like much other than gin, Seconal and dogs, but I don't think that's true. If she were as unhappy as is commonly believed, she would have escalated her suicidal behavior, and not have lived to the age of 74. She would not have had the passion to march for the acquittal of Sacco and Venzetti, to travel to Spain during the country's civil war, to volunteer as a war correspondent during WWII, and to join in voice and body the civil rights movement in her last decade. I think disdain rather than anger is a better word for what she felt towards the targets of her wit-- and it

Survival Kit

Every non-cheerleader, adolescent female should have a copy of this anthology. To quote George Bernard Shaw, "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." Dorothy Parker specializes in acidic humor. From Resume to Unfortunate Coincidence to her short story the Waltz, Parker presents acerbic wit at it's best. This anthology helped me survive high school. You don't have to be depressed or pessimistic to appreciate Parker's poems and stories. Her humor is reminiscient of Shaw, Fielding and others: it's biting and casts no illusions over life, but presents the negative with humor. Also an excellent book for those who are single on Valentine's Day. ;)

This is as good as it gets.

This is the best--the very, very best writings of an extremely talented, yet still underrated, author. Dorothy Parker: her loneliness and anger are only slightly concealed by her brittle humor. Read "Lady With a Lamp" if you want to experience the nature of true sadism: not physical pain, but ultimate despair is brought to an ill woman by one of her 'friends'. "Horsie" is a sad examination of the relationship between a homely woman of repressed passion and the shallow couple who employ her. "The Last Tea": anyone who's been in a dying relationship, who isn't willing to admit that it has ended, can understand the female protagonist's every move. Those are my favorites, but every story in this volume is delightful. And then there are her reviews. My favorite is the scathing, nasty review of A.A. Milne's "Give Me Yesterday"--that play was actually produced? Her poetry is excellent, as well--I prefer her prose and her reviews, however. This is one of the five books I'm taking to my desert island. Read it!

The Viking Portable Library: Dorothy Parker Mentions in Our Blog

The Viking Portable Library: Dorothy Parker in Sold, Viewed, Playful, New
Sold, Viewed, Playful, New
Published by Terry Fleming • June 14, 2021

Welcome to Sold, Viewed, Playful, New, where we spotlight popular/fascinating/favorite items in four distinct categories. Sold, for used books. Viewed, for DVDs or Blu-rays. Playful, for board, card, or video games. And New, for new books. Check out our selections—we're sure you'll find something to intrigue you!

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