Ben has been raving about Dorothy Parker pretty much since we first met, and having finally gotten around to reading her work, I am beginning to understand why.
All of her poems are bitter and witty, and none are too long (Ben and I are not overly fond of poems where you have to turn the page – again, call us philistines if you want). Parker voices frustrations that you wish you had found the words to express. She’s especially bitter about the plight of woman – but voices it fantastically well. Parker’s women are feisty, vengeful and fierce. A snippet from one of my favourites is in order, I think…
…Down from Caesar past Joynson-Hicks
Echoes the warning, ever new:
Though they’re trained to amusing tricks,
Gentler, they, than the pigeon’s coo,
Careful, son, of the cursed two –
Either one is a dangerous pet;
Natural history proves it true –
Women and elephants never forget….
Ballade of Unfortunate Animals
I’m fairly certain that Parker is not for everyone: she does not write happy or upbeat, and too much Parker, I’m sure, might make you pretty bitter yourself, so I advise taking in small doses. Not all of it is fantastic – a lot of it is self-indulgent pining over lost loves and boredom. Like the modern teenager, she does seem to enjoy her misery far too much.
However, she is very witty and observant, and made me laugh out loud more than once (at the expense of her archetypal characters, I must admit). Her short stories are fairly entertaining too, but I felt they weren’t on par with her poetry. That said, both stories and poems make clever observations about the hypocritical and often cruel behaviour of “normal people”.
And I can see myself getting Inscription for the Ceiling of a Bedroom inscribed on my bedroom ceiling.
…Though I go in pride and strength,
I’ll come back to bed at length…
…Summer, Winter, Spring, and Fall –
I’m a fool to rise at all!
Poor Dotty P.