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The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy…

The Portable Dorothy Parker

by Dorothy Parker

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Viking Portable Library (4)

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Famous for her one-liners/zingers, Parker is typically referred to as a "wit" which always conjures up for me some sort of light-hearted banter setting up for some ultimate punchline*.

This definitely was not the case for Parker's short stories which are more like domestic psychological thrillers, be it the toxic relationships buoyed along by societal expectations (her shrewd insight into such tumultuous relationships reminds me of Yates and makes me wonder how personal a research she must have conducted) or a racist-and-don't-know-it at a house party.

Add to this Parker's ability to present to you one side of a character's story (some stories are literally just one person's side of the conversation) yet show you the entire intricate minefield of relationships in the narrative. Each story is an exercise in holding your breath and slowly shuddering and exhaling at the end.

*which I found was the case for the poems which didn't grab me as much as the stories did. I also found her cultural reviews dated less accessible, it feels necessary to be in that cultural zeitgeist while reading them. For the stories alone, the collection would be five stars. ( )
  kitzyl | Aug 31, 2017 |
I chanced open this book a day before I was to leave for a road trip, and boy am I glad! I am in love with Ms. Parker. Her style of writing is brilliant, and so is her wit. I was never a big fan of short stories until I read this book, and I was hooked. Ms. Parker has a very keen sense of understanding human emotions, and you can see that in the way she has (very cleverly) portrayed it through her characters. And each story has a different theme. Where there is one story that makes you hysterical when you are riding the bus to work (it happened with me, people were looking at me funny as if I had the Monday Morning Blues), there is one that makes you retrospect such times with a heavy heart. Oh what a delight this book is!
I read this book out aloud to my sister while on our road trip, I have many beautiful memories with it.
I would recommend this book. ( )
  oneteanosugar | May 23, 2017 |
I think Parker said it best in, “There's a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words." I think I adore her writing so much because there's so much truth in her wit and the only calisthenics you experience while reading her is unabated laughter. ( )
  lamotamant | Sep 22, 2016 |
Some of this stuff is brutally funny, some of it seems dated and a little quaint--possibly the target audience has become extinct. Still worth having for her quick wit. I think if she saw the picture of her they picked for the cover she'd sue. ( )
  unclebob53703 | Feb 21, 2016 |
Once upon a time I had this idea that one should read a book from start to finish, and if one was being particularly through that included the preface and any appendix. However that technique has often left me hanging in one part of a book (really wishing that I was reading another part, farther in) - and if it's a book of collected stories and poems, it's not really vital that you go in order.

I've also begun reading this book more than once and ended up hopping about and only reading bits and pieces. So this time through - and I do intended to finish the whole of it this time (yes, really) - I went straight for the part I was most interested: the reviews of plays and books and other articles. I only wish there were more of these because Parker is such fun as a reviewer. More than once I've read a bit and laughed in agreement. Such as:

p. 420 "...There's only one thing I could wish about the whole play - I do wish they would do something about those Russian names. Owing to the local Russian custom of calling each person sometimes by all of his names, sometimes by only his first three or four, and sometimes by a nickname which has nothing to do with any of the other names, it is difficult for one with my congenital lowness of brow to gather exactly whom they are talking about. I do wish that as long as they are translating the thing, they would go right ahead, while they're at it, and translate Fedor Vasilyevich Protosov and Sergei Dmitrievich Abreskov and Ivan Petrovich Alexandrov into Joe and Harry and Fred."

--Vanity Fair review of Tolstoy's play Redemption, December 1918

And that nicely sums up why I could never finish The Brothers Karamazov - I made the mistake of putting it down for a day and when I tried to pick it up again I was lost and unable to figure out who was who. I probably would have had to keep a cheat sheet of names to properly keep track, and so gave up and moved on to other books.

Here's a later review, to give you another idea of why I turned to these first. Here Parker confesses to be "a confirmed user of Whodunits":

p. 568 "To me, the raveled sleeve of care is never more painlessly knitted up than in an evening alone in a chair snug yet copious, with a good light and an easily held little volume sloppily printed and bound in inexpensive paper. I do not ask much of it - which is just as well, for that is all I get. It does not matter if I guess the killer, and if I happen to discover, along around page 208, that I have read the work before, I attribute the fact not to the less than arresting powers of the author, but to my own lazy memory. I like best to have one book in my hand, and a stack of others on the floor beside me, so as to know the supply of poppy and mandragora will not run out before the small hours. In all reverence I say Heaven bless the Whodunit, the soothing balm on the wound, the cooling hand on the brow, the opiate of the people."

--Book review Of Ellery Queen: The New York Murders, from Esquire, January 1959

The Parker who writes poetry and short stories almost seems a different person. Reading too many of those pieces makes me feel somewhat depressed - or at least feeling a bit too full of the angst of love and loss, or of really horrible people who seem to pop up regularly in her short stories. I'd enjoy her writing more if I could read it all in chronological order and have the reviews and essays as relief. But I do understand the why of the ordering - the first section is how Parker herself grouped her works, and the later was added after her death.

At least if you read all her reviews last you'll be left with the more lively person who's just shared her thoughts on a play or book. That's the Parker I think I like most.

[Here I go off on a tangent. Just noting.] When looking up the word mandragora, wikipedia helpfully pushed me over to the page on mandrake - which seems fair because it probably wasn't the demon or the band. Anyway. Under in pop culture this caught my eye:

"...Not poppy, nor mandragora,
Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,
Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep
Which thou owedst yesterday."

Shakespeare: Othello III.iii

Parker was wonderfully well read, so I can't think this is a coincidence. But that's just my guess, seeing that the use of mandragora probably doesn't pop up all that often. Now of course I should go reread Othello and see about the context of that quote. ( )
  bookishbat | Sep 25, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dorothy Parkerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Farrell, MichaelCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gill, BrendanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maugham, W. SomersetIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meade, MarionEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This edition should not be combined with any edition published after Viking's 1973 revision (numbered as P74 in the Viking Portable Library original system), or with any book bearing the ISBN 0140150749, reprinted after Penguin acquired the Viking Press in 1975. The 1973 version and its reprints up until the Deluxe Edition of 2006 are technically a separate entity from the 1944 original.

It should further not be combined with the new Penguin Deluxe edition (ISBN-13: 9780143039532) -- apart from the first section, the two books have very different content!
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143039539, Paperback)

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.

For this new twenty-first-century edition, devoted admirers can be sure to find their favorite verse and stories. But a variety of fresh material has also been added to create a fuller, more authentic picture of her life's work. There are some stories new to the Portable, "Such a Pretty Little Picture," along with a selection of articles written for such disparate publications as Vogue, McCall's, House and Garden, and New Masses. Two of these pieces concern home decorating, a subject not usually associated with Mrs. Parker. At the heart of her serious work lies her political writings-racial, labor, international-and so "Soldiers of the Republic" is joined by reprints of "Not Enough" and "Sophisticated Poetry-And the Hell With It," both of which first appeared in New Masses. "A Dorothy Parker Sampler" blends the sublime and the silly with the terrifying, a sort of tasting menu of verse, stories, essays, political journalism, a speech on writing, plus a catchy off-the-cuff rhyme she never thought to write down.

The introduction of two new sections is intended to provide the richest possible sense of Parker herself. "Self-Portrait" reprints an interview she did in 1956 with The Paris Review, part of a famed ongoing series of conversations ("Writers at Work") that the literary journal conducted with the best of twentieth-century writers. What makes the interviews so interesting is that they were permitted to edit their transcripts before publication, resulting in miniature autobiographies.

"Letters: 1905-1962," which might be subtitled "Mrs. Parker Completely Uncensored," presents correspondence written over the period of a half century, beginning in 1905 when twelve-year-old Dottie wrote her father during a summer vacation on Long Island, and concluding with a 1962 missive from Hollywood describing her fondness for Marilyn Monroe.

A Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition with French flaps, rough front, and luxurious packaging
Features an introduction from Marion Meade and cover illustrations by renowned graphic artist Seth, creator of the comic series Palooka-ville

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:37 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Celebrated stories and poems from the original Portable plus later stories, play reviews, articles, book reviews, the Constant Reader, and Parker's collected New Yorker book reviews.

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