Literary Wits of the 20th Century


H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)

Quotes by H.L. Mencken:

  1. “In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.”
  2. “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.”
  3. “A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he is married.”
Robert Benchley: “Why don’t you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?”

“A great many people have come up to me and asked me how I manage to get so much work done and still keep looking so dissipated. My answer is, “Don’t you wish you knew?” and a pretty good answer it is too, when you consider that nine times out of ten I didn’t hear the original question.”  Robert Benchley

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) and Robinson–Of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Parker said: “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

Other Parker Quotes:

  1. Ducking for apples — change one letter and it’s the story of my life.
  2. I’m never going to accomplish anything; that’s perfectly clear to me. I’m never going to be famous. My name will never be writ large on the roster of Those Who Do Things. I don’t do anything. Not one single thing. I used to bite my nails, but I don’t even do that any more.
  3. I might repeat to myself slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound — if I can remember any of the damn things.   dparker

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936): “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

S.J. Perelman (1904-1979)  (He wrote much of Groucho Marx’s early dialogue)

“Fate was dealing from the bottom of the deck.” [The Rising Gorge (1961) p. 183]

 A patient confronts his doctor, in a cartoon printed in Judge magazine (November 16, 1929):

“Great-grandfather died under strange circumstances. He opened a vein in his bath.”
“I never knew baths had veins,” protested Gabrilowitsch.”
“I never knew his great-grandfather had a ba—” began Falcovsky derisively.”

“Oh, son, I wish you hadn’t become a scenario writer!” she sniffled.
“Aw, now, Moms,” I comforted her, “it’s no worse than playing the piano in a call house.” [“Strictly from Hunger”, The Most of S. J. Perelman (1992) p. 45]

If you liked this post, you might like to read my post entitled:  The Dorothy Parker Society (DPS) Newsletter for November 2012.

Dorothy Parker Rejected by New Jersey

Michael Douglas and the E Street Band inducted into the New Jersey

Hall of Fame, but not Dorothy Parker

When the E Street Band and Michael Douglas are inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame this summer, the Dorothy Parker Society and our friends in Long Branch will not be at a table at the gala affair sipping champagne. That’s because Mrs. Parker was shut out again. Her

Dottie Parker Rejected Again

place in the “general” category was taken by Joyce Carol Oates. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, as Mrs. Parker has been taking her lumps lately (losing her house still stings). We are happy that if it had to be anyone in the category to beat her, at least it was Ms. Oates, a superstar female author, and not Doris Duke. Read the whole sad tale here, and see who else is being inducted.

(above quoted from the Dorothy Parker Society Newsletter)

Has Joyce Carol Oats ever written one quotable line?  About the only thing you can say about her is that she is prolific.   In 60 years, do you think she will still be talked about and celebrated?  Is Joyce Carol Oats a symbol for an age as is Parker?  Has JCO had a bottle of American gin named after her?

Dorothy Parker American Gin–a blend of traditional and contemporary botanicals including juniper and elderberries, citrus, cinnamon, and hibiscus Made by Brooklyn Distilling Company.

That only happened because Parker is some kind of symbol for the American Twenties.  What has JCO had named after her:  zero, goose egg, natha.  Besides, Oats wasn’t even born in New Jersey as was Parker.  Parker has been on a U.S. Postage Stamp and Oats hasn’t.

Issued 8/22/1992

The argument could be made that Ms. Parker didn’t live in New Jersey accept as a child, but neither has Michael Douglas.  I believe Douglas grew up in Connecticut.

Read my previous blog on Dorothy Parker called Dorothy Parker’s Birthday.

Top 10 List

Monthly Top Ten Dorothy Parker Books
1. The Portable Dorothy Parker

2. A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York (ArtPlace Series)

3. The Lost Algonquin Round Table

4. Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell is This?

5. Dorothy Parker Complete Poems

6. The Poetry and Short Stories of Dorothy Parker (Modern Library)

7. Dorothy Parker Complete Stories

8. Not Much Fun: The Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker

9. Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties

10. The Ladies of the Corridor (Penguin Classics)

Check out my other posts about Dorothy Parker

1.  June 7 Marks the 45th Anniversary of Dorothy Parker’s Death.

2.  Dorothy Parker’s Birthday

3.  Coming Soon:  An On-Line Tour of Dorothy Parker’s New York.

New York Literary News

[This post comes from the Winter Dorothy Parker Society Newsletter]
Dorothy Parker American Gin

ginThe best news we’ve heard in a long time:  Dorothy Parker American Gin is now on the market! We are thrilled to learn about the brand-new distillery in Brooklyn that is bottling the sweet juices of Juniper. The New York Distilling Company gave us a private tour, learn about it  here. We will be having some special events at their fantastic distillery this year, so watch for the news. Dorothy Parker American Gin is available now in the New York City area.

Visit the Dorothy Parker Society

House Update Grim
Last month we told you about the failed letter writing campaign to save one of Dorothy Parker’s childhood homes. While the situation is dire, the building isn’t demolished yet. You can read the full account here. If you did write a letter or email, we thank you. If were lazy and did not, congratulate yourself for being a slacker.

Garden State Wait

We are waiting on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to quit fighting with Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, and tell us what we really care about: Is Dorothy Parker in the state’s Hall of Fame, or not? The announcement is due any day now. The induction ceremony will be June 3 in Newark. Keep your fingers crossed.

Algonquin Doors Locked
The Algonquin Hotel is closed for renovations until May. There is a major construction project going on inside. We will have a full report in February from the hotel general manager. We hope to learn more about the exciting updates at our favorite place. Don’t worry, the Round Table and Matilda will be back… until then, we won’t have any Round Table walking tours scheduled.

Dorothy Parker’s Upper West Side Walking Tour
Saturday, March 24, 12:00 p.m.

Meet at Riverside Park, West 72nd Street and Riverside Drive (at Eleanor Roosevelt)
Walk is led by Kevin C. Fitzpatrick, author of A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York and president of the Dorothy Parker Society. See more than a dozen locations tied to Mrs. Parker’s life: her residences from childhood to adulthood, her haunts, school and landmarks. Take a stroll through the beautiful Upper West Side and see where Dorothy Parker spent her formative years. The walk is two hours in length, and covers approximately 25 blocks. Wear comfortable shoes. The walk is open to the public, tickets are $20 each (or free if you live in one of Mrs. Parker’s former apartments and will let us inside for a look), no charge for kids or dogs. Email your RSVP here.

Edna Ferber Honors

Edna Ferber U.S. Postage Stamp

Congratulations to Edna Ferber for being tapped for the New York State Writers Hall of Fame, an honor that Dorothy Parker earned last year. This is a fantastic honor bestowed by the New York Center for the Book. Read about it  here.

Poem of the Month

We don’t see this one printed too much, but it was included in a famous 1935 anthology of current American writing that also featured Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos and E.B. White called The Great American Parade. Dorothy Parker wrote this for Life and published it on April 9, 1925. Eighty-seven years later, the DPS brings it to you. This one is from Dorothy Parker Complete Poems. You can find the book here.

By Dorothy Parker

Now this is the story of Lucy Brown,
A glittering jewel in virtue’s crown.
From earliest youth, she aspired to please.
She never fell down and dirtied her knees;
She put all her pennies in savings banks;
She never omitted her “please” and “thanks”;
She swallowed her spinach without a squawk;
And patiently listened to Teacher’s talk;
She thoughtfully stepped over worms and ants;
And earnestly watered the potted plants;
She didn’t dismember expensive toys;
And never would play with the little boys.

And when to young womanhood Lucy came
Her mode of behavior was just the same.
She always was safe in her home at dark;
And never went riding around the park;
She wouldn’t put powder upon her nose;
And petticoats sheltered her spotless hose;
She knew how to market and mend and sweep;
By quarter-past ten, she was sound asleep;
In presence of elders, she held her tongue—
The way that they did when the world was young.
And people remarked, in benign accord,
“You’ll see that she gathers her just reward.”
Observe, their predictions were more than fair.
She married an affluent millionaire
So gallant and handsome and wise and gay,
And rated in Bradstreet at Double A.
And she lived with him happily all her life,
And she made him a perfectly elegant wife.

Now Marigold Jones, from her babyhood,
Was bad as the model Miss Brown was good.
She stuck out her tongue at her grieving nurse;
She frequently rifled her Grandma’s purse;
She banged on the table and broke the plates;
She jeered at the passing inebriates;
And tore all her dresses and ripped her socks;
And shattered the windows with fair-sized rocks;
The words on the fences she’d memorize;
She blackened her dear little brother’s eyes;
And cut off her sister’s abundant curls;
And never would play with the little girls.

And when she grew up—as is hardly strange—
Her manner of life underwent no change
But faithfully followed her childhood plan.
And once there was talk of a married man!
She sauntered in public in draperies
Affording no secrecy to her knees;
She constantly uttered what was not true;
She flirted and petted, or what have you;
And tendered advice by her kind Mamma,
Her answer, I shudder to state, was “Blah!”
And people remarked, in sepulchral tones,
“You’ll see what becomes of Marigold Jones.”
Observe, their predictions where more than fair.
She married an affluent millionaire
So gallant and handsome and wise and gay,
And rated in Bradstreet at Double A.
And she lived with him happily all her life,
And made him a perfectly elegant wife.


I hate Husbands; They narrow my scope…Dorothy Parker

Received my Dorothy Parker Society Newsletter today, so thought I would share some of it.

Parkerfest started in 1999 in New York, and this annual party looks to be among the most ambitious ones the Dorothy Parker Society has ever put on. It will be four days long, Aug. 26-29, with fun activities spread out from Gramercy Park to Governors Island.  Parkerfest in NYC is from Aug. 26th thru Aug. 29th.  Many activities that one can attend.

August 22 is the 117th anniversary of Mrs. Parker’s birth–she was born Aug. 22, 1893, in Long Branch, NJ–so listen to the only original birthday tribute recorded for her big day. It was written and performed by Bill Zeffiro (watch him perform it live on the 26th). Have a listen here:

Parkerfest in Los Angeles

We know how Mrs. Parker loathed her life in the City Angels, but something kept her there for 30 years. Money, perhaps? But the LA Chapter of the DPS is busy and having a gathering in August: Parkerfest LA on Dorothy’s actual birthday on Sunday, August 22nd. Let’s have an informal picnic at Coldwater Canyon park in Beverly Hills around 4 PM. The park is down the street from one of the residences Dorothy lived in the 40s. We can spend our time daydreaming, playing word games and planning events for the rest of the year and 2011.  Do not confuse this park with the Coldwater Canyon Park off of Mullholland. We are going to the one that is at the junction of N Beverly Drive and Coldwater Canyon Drive.

Please RSVP so that I know who to expect at 4 p.m. Parking may be a — cell phone # is 626 376-7605 and it takes text messages.

“I hate Summer Resorts; They ruin my vacation”…Dorothy Parker

For R.C.B.  [ Robert Charles Benchley]
By Dorothy Parker

Life comes a-hurrying,
Or life lags slow;
But you’ve got to stop worrying—
Let it go!
Some call it gloomy,
Some call it jake;
They’re very little to me—
Let them eat cake!
Some find it fair,
Some think it hooey,
Many people care;
But we don’t, do we?

Dorothy Parker

Received my newsletter today from the Dorothy Parker Society in NYC and thought I would share some of it with my readers–if I have any, but if not, who cares.  Now, you can see why I like Dorothy Parker so much.  Last year missed the annual Parkerfest that we have here in NYC on Governors Island, but maybe I will make it this year.  Everyone dresses up like it’s the jazz age.

“I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I’m under the table,
After four I’m under the host”…Dorothy Parker

August Event: the DPS will hold the 12th annual Parkerfest on Governors Island during the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island, Saturday & Sunday, August 28th & 29th. More info to come later, check the News page.
Summer is here and there is a boatload of Dorothy Parker news and events to tell you about. In June, July and August there are events in many cities. And if you hate summer resorts, read what Mrs. Parker had to say about it.

It was just announced that Mario Brassard’s 2008 short film Dorothy Parker’s “The Sexes” is an official selection of the 13th annual Long Island International Film Expo in Bellmore.  The film will be screened on Saturday, July 17, at 4:30 pm. For more info visit www.liifilmexpo.organd Congratulations to Mario and his fine cast and crew. This is nice, because Mrs. Parker spent childhood summers in Bellmore, more than 100 years ago.

In August, Mrs. Parker’s short story “Here We Are” will be part of the Silver Spring Stage’s one-act festival. The festival runs two weekends and by happy coincidence “Here We Are” will run the 19th to 22nd of August, thus closing on the 117th anniversary of Mrs. Parker’s birth. Silver Spring Stage is an all-volunteer community theater in Silver Spring, Maryland, outside Washington, DC. For more info visit here

I just quoted some of the highlights from the newsletter.  If interested in reading the entire newsletter email or join the Dorothy Parker Society.

A scene from the film about Parker called Dorothy Parker and the Vicious Circle