In youth, it was a way I had
To do my best to please,
And change, with every passing lad,
To suit his theories.
But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do;
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!
I came across some of Dottie's verse years ago, probably in an English course anthology. I finally borrowed The Portable Dorothy Parker from the library a year or two ago, which confirmed my suspicion that we could totally have hung out together. (Wikipedia tells me Parker's is one of only three of the Portable series (the other two being William Shakespeare and The Bible) to remain continuously in print.)
… young Dorothy divided her time agreeably enough between writing suggestive fashion captions for Vogue and incendiary verses for Vanity Fair. The fashion lines had an edge to them—"Brevity is the soul of lingerie," she wrote, and also: "There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good she was very very good, and when she was bad she wore this divine nightdress of rose-colored mousseline de soie, trimmed with frothy Valenciennes lace." via Vanity Fair (a great article)
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.
By the time you swear you're his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.
The Nation described her verse as "caked with a salty humor, rough with splinters of disillusion, and tarred with a bright black authenticity."
Aside from being sarcastic as hell and quick with wordplay, she was a champion of progressive causes, including racial integration.
In her will, she bequeathed her estate to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. foundation. Following King's death, her estate was passed on to the NAACP. Her ashes remained unclaimed in various places, including her attorney Paul O'Dwyer's filing cabinet, for approximately 17 years.
You can celebrate Dottie and all things '20s and '30s by keeping up with the events and activities of the Dorothy Parker Society.
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