I first encountered Dorothy Parker when watching Girl, Interrupted (I have since read the book and recommend both) and I was inspired to steal the lines to write a poem called Claymore based on the film/book.
I have now recently read The Collected Dorothy Parker. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a book so much that I didn’t want it to end. And at 603 pages that’s saying something. What’s also worth noting is that this is a collection of poetry, short stories, reviews and articles. It opened my eyes up to the viability of poetry and short stories becoming more popular forms of literature. Especially as I am one for travelling a lot and needing something I can read in both short bursts and for a long duration.
It is also worth noting that I am now in a loving relationship and really happy. Parker’s work is filled with a cynical wit, often surrounding relations between men and women, so, again, it really says something that someone in a love bubble can reflect and enjoy these pessimistic portraits of relationships. There is also a sense of strength, vitality and an air of confidence to her writing that makes her inspirational. Her writing is both straight-talking and wildly romantic when you think that the subject of love appears to be so consuming to her.
Although, reading literary criticism could be a bit bland, especially when you’ve never even heard of the texts, Parker’s work lacks any pretense and entertains the reader as if you were discussing books over a cup of tea, or – more likely - whiskey sour, straight up. I have to say I did prefer the other material, but I did think it was amazing how she was able to keep these reviews so interesting to read.
I find it almost impossible to pick just one section to present here, but I want to share just a morsel of what this collection has to offer. For the sake of ease, I’ll copy down a poem called Ultimatum.
I’m wearied of wearying love, my friend,
Of worry and strain and doubt;
Before we begin, let us view the end,
And maybe I’ll do without.
There’s never the pang that was worth the tear,
And too in the night I won’t -
So either you do or you don’t, my dear,
Either you do or you don’t!
The table is ready, so lay your cards
And if they should augur pain,
I’ll tender you ever my kind regards
And run for the fastest train.
I haven’t the will to be spent and sad;
My heart’s to be gay and true -
Then either you don’t or you do, my lad,
Either you don’t or you do!