American author Dorothy Parker might be best known for her wisecracking remarks, but to remember her for only that does a great disservice to her remarkable writing life. Business Optimizer takes a look back at the life and works of one of America’s most fascinating female poets.
Dorothy Parker’s reputation goes before her – the New York writer and socialite is renowned for her pithy remarks and wisecracks. Yet she, perhaps, should be better known for her literary accomplishments. She was on the editorial board of the New Yorker magazine when it launched, inspired a literary circle, racked up a best-selling poetry collection and earned an Academy Award nomination.
Dorothy Parker was born on August 22, 1893, two months early. She was born at her parent’s summer house in West End, New Jersey, but was raised on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Her childhood was not a happy one.
Her mother died when she was five, to be replaced shortly after by a stepmother who Dorothy said she hated before she, too, died early. Her uncle was killed in 1912, a passenger on the Titanic, and her father died the following year. Left to fend for herself, her formal education came to an abrupt end at the age of 14. She supported herself by becoming a pianist at a dance academy.
Dorothy Parker’s writing break came when, in 1914, she sold her first poem, Any Porch, to Vanity Fair editor Frank Crowninshield. This led to a job with sister title Vogue where she would write captions: “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.”
She covered for Vanity Fair’s theatre critic PG Wodehouse when he was out of town and eventually took over the role. But by 1920 her legendary wit got her fired when her words were at the expense of Billie Burke, wife of one of the magazine’s biggest advertisers.
During the 1920s, Dorothy Parker published more than 300 poems and verses in a variety of magazines. In 1925, she helped launch the New Yorker and helped shape its tone, contributing as the “Constant Reader”.
“The wittiest woman in America” was a founder of the fabled Algonquin Round Table, a literary group which also included Harpo Marx, George S Kaufman and Edna Ferber.
Dorothy Parker’s first volume of poetry, Enough Rope, became a best seller – despite reviewers dismissing it as lightweight and the New York Times calling it “flapper poetry”. It was followed by two more poetry collections, Sunset Gun in 1928 and
Death and Taxes in 1931. These titles ensured Dorothy Parker was one of the Jazz Age’s most beloved poets.
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.