The Great Mrs. Parker

Tuesday 17 – Wednesday 18 December 2013

For a good many years, I have enjoyed the words and wisdom of Dorothy Parker, founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, witticist, essayist, poet, scriptwriter, and writer. Aside from her acerbic poetry, her witty quotations are the main reason I like Mrs. Parker. She was sharp, sarcastic, witty, and although she despised her reputation as a wisecrack, is best known for those witty remarks.

A quick bit of background on Dorothy Parker before I get to some of my favourite quotations . . . she was nominated for two Academy Awards, wrote for magazines Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, worked as an editor for Vogue, bequeathed her estate to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Foundation, and following King’s death, her estate was passed on to the NAACP. If you want examples of Dorothy Parker’s work, I suggest getting hold of The Portable Dorothy Parker as it has everything you’ll need to read from the great lady – her poetry, short stories, reviews, critiques, letters, and essays.

The following quotations have been attributed to Mrs. Parker, and they are amongst my favourite of her words. My absolute favourites are in bold.

  • That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can’t say ‘No’ in any of them.
  • I don’t care what is written about me so long as it isn’t true.
  • I’ve never been a millionaire but I just know I’d be darling at it.
  • If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.
  • If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.
  • That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.
  • The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.
  • 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 any thing. Not one single thing. I used to bite my nails, but I don’t even do that any more.
  • Men seldom make passes                                                                                                             At girls who wear glasses.
  • She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B. (Speaking of Katharine Hepburn)
  • Excuse my dust. (Apparently used as her epitaph.)
  • The ones I like … are “cheque” and “enclosed.” (On the most beautiful words in the English language, as quoted in The New York Herald Tribune, 12 December 1932)
  • Too fucking busy, and vice versa. (Response to an editor pressuring her for overdue work.)
  • You can lead horticulture, but you can’t make her think. (Mrs. Parker’s answer when asked to use the word horticulture in a sentence.)
  • Money cannot buy health, but I’d settle for a diamond-studded wheelchair.
  • Ducking for apples — change one letter and it’s the story of my life.
  • This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. (Of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged)
  • Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.
  • I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.
  • That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.
  • Take me or leave me or, as is the usual order of things, both.
  • This wasn’t just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.
  • A hangover is the wrath of grapes.
  • Q: What’s the difference between an enzyme and a hormone?                                            A: You can’t hear an enzyme.
  • I’m not a writer with a drinking problem; I’m a drinker with a writing problem.
  • I wish I could drink like a lady.                                                                                                      I can take one or two at the most.                                                                                           Three and I’m under the table.                                                                                               Four and I’m under the host.
  • Of course I talk to myself. I like a good speaker, and I appreciate an intelligent audience.
  • Said to Mrs. Parker: I really can’t come to your party Mrs. Parker, I can’t bear fools. Mrs. Parker’s reply: That’s strange; your mother could.
  • Famous actress bragging about her husband: Look at him, isn’t he beautiful? I have kept him for seven years now.                                                                                          Dorothy Parker: Don’t worry; he’ll come back in style.
  • Good work, Mary: We all knew you had it in you. (Telegram to a friend on finding out the woman had given birth.)
  • It’s not the tragedies that kill us, it’s the messes.
  • I didn’t call her anything. ‘Hey, you,’ was about the best I could do. (About her stepmother.)

As I wrote at the beginning, get yourself a copy of The Portable Dorothy Parker, and read it. Poems such as Resume, and One Perfect Rose are my particular favourites, and you should check out some of the letters that she wrote to friends, family, and associates, and some of her cutting reviews of literary and theatrical works. I think you’ll enjoy them . . . especially if you have a sense of humour like mine. 😉


About Danielle

I like to write. What more is there to know?
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