Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Poetry & Short Stories of Dorothy Parker

The minute I joined the Short Story Reading Challenge, I knew I wanted to read some Dorothy Parker. My introduction to Parker came in college in a literature class. We were assigned at various points two short stories. One was "Telephone Call" and the second was "The Waltz." These two remain my favorite of the ones I've read, but I would still recommend this whole collection. It contains 24 short stories by Dorothy Parker. These stories were originally published in 1939 under the title Here Lies.

What I love about Parker is how she portrays humanity--the good, the bad, the ugly. She captures nuances of humanity both personal and social. (Whether she's documenting the tortured, lonely soul or capturing the hidden layers of a relationship between two friends or two lovers or even the strain of family life.) The stories often contain commentary on social aspects of life--race, class, sex, etc.

Short stories include: "Arrangement in Black and White," "The Sexes," "The Wonderful Old Gentleman," "A Telephone Call," "Here We Are," "Lady With A Lamp," "Too Bad," "Mr. Durant," "Just A Little One," "Horsie," "Clothe the Naked," "The Waltz," "Little Curtis," "The Little Hours," "Big Blonde," "From the Diary of A New York Lady," "Soldiers of the Republic," "Dusk Before Fireworks," "New York to Detroit," "Glory in the Daytime," "The Last Tea," "Sentiment," "You Were Perfectly Fine," and "The Custard Heart."

I know I can't possibly hope to capture my reaction to all of the stories. I would have had to have been taking notes as I read each one. But I hope I can convey how much I appreciated the humanity, the attention to detail, the characterization. All the little things that added up to make each story work as a whole.

Here's how The Wonderful Old Gentleman begins, "If the Bains had striven for years, they could have been no more successful in making their living room into a small but admirably complete museum of objects suggesting strain, discomfort, or the tomb." (p. 241) Isn't that a great way to start a story? Isn't that a great hook? It continues a paragraph later, "It was as if they had all been selected by a single enthusiast to whom time was but little object, so long as he could achieve the eventual result of transforming the Bain living room into a home chamber of horrors, modified a bit for family use."

And here's the frantic but memorable beginning to "A Telephone Call," "Please, God let him telephone me now. Dear God, let him call me now. I won't ask anything else of You, truly I won't. It isn't very much to ask. It would be so little to You, God, such a little, little thing. Only let him telephone now. Please, God. Please, please, please." (254)

And perhaps my favorite, "The Waltz." "Why thank you so much. I'd adore to. I don't want to dance with him. I don't want to dance with anybody. And even if I did, it wouldn't be him. He'd be well down among the last ten. I've seen the way he dances; it looks like something you do on Saint Walpurgis Night. Just think, not a quarter of an hour ago, here I was sitting, feeling so sorry for the poor girl he was dancing with. And now I'm going to be the poor girl. Well, well. Isn't it a small world." (335)

The way she uses language (or she used language as the case may be) is such that it captures a time, a place, a feeling. It is like a photograph of the soul. Capturing the insanity, the loneliness, the confusion, the hope, whatever the feeling--whatever the situation. She's got it captured authentically in print.

Now a brief word about the poetry. The poetry was originally published in several volumes: Enough Rope, Sunset Gun, and Death and Taxes and Other Poems. While I didn't love every poem, I enjoyed enough of the poems to recommend it to others. I liked a good many. And there were a few that were just right. Perhaps I'll use a few in the upcoming weeks for Poetry Friday.


Laura 11:04 PM  

I remember a few Dorothy Parker short stories, but I don't think I've ever read any poems by her. Thanks for the review.

Post a Comment

I'm always happy to hear from you! To help fight spam, comment moderation has been set up for posts older than two days. Feel free to ask me questions or ask for recommendations!

Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

Unique Visitors and Google PR Rank

Free PageRank Checker

2018 Kitty Lit Challenge

2018 Kitty Lit Challenge
Link to sign-up page

Join the Victorian Reading Challenge

Join the Victorian Reading Challenge
Linked to sign up page

Family Tree Reading Challenge

Family Tree Reading Challenge
Link to sign-up page

2018 Share-a-Tea Challenge

2018 Share-a-Tea Challenge
Linked To Sign Up Page

2018 Charity Challenge (Sign Up)

2018 Good Rule Reading Challenge

2018 Good Rule Reading Challenge
Link to sign up page

2018 Picture Book Challenge

2018 Picture Book Challenge
Link to sign-up page

Join the 2018 Middle Grade Reading Challenge

Join the 2018 Middle Grade Reading Challenge
click image to go to sign up post

Good Rules Cheat List

Board books and picture books = new is anything published after 2013
Early readers and chapter books = new is anything published after 2013
Contemporary (general/realistic) = new is anything published after 2007
Speculative fiction (sci-fi/fantasy = new is anything published after 2007
Classics = anything published before 1968
Historical fiction = new is anything published after 2007
Mysteries = new is anything published after 1988
Nonfiction = new is anything published after 2007
Christian books = new is anything published after 2000
Bibles = new is anything published after 1989

My Blog List

(Old) Challenge Participants

Becky's Hosting These Challenges

100 Books Project: Fill in the Gaps

Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

  © Blogger template Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP