Dorothy Parker

The Collected Dorothy Parker

“If I should labor through daylight and dark,
Consecrate, valorous, serious, true,
Then on the world I may blazon my mark;
And what if I don’t, and what if I do?”

Dorothy Parker (1893 – 1967), a social and literary titan in the 1920s and 30s. Her language was short, quick, bright and often caustic. She is a fun read, eminently quotable and smile-inducing.

Parker’s poetry was elevated by her social network, The Algonquin Round Table, and other “middle class, urban, intellectuals.”

Parker’s writing was a product of her time and it lost critical momentum after The Great Depression because, according to Brendan Gill’s introduction, she was never as sophisticated or talented as her clamoring social circle had us believe. Parker struggle to rejigger her work to new austerity of post-War New York.

This collection is an up-to-date version of the original 1944 publication The Portable Dorothy Parker. Parker died in 1967 at age seventy-three. She wrote for magazines and journals up until her death but Parker never published additional volumes. I find something a bit heavy about Parker’s writing, an awareness of death, and her own limitations in life, “And what if I don’t, and what if I do?”. She covers it up with splashy rhymes and observations, but between the bars, it’s there: a smile, a smirk, a sadness.