- If, with the literate, I am
- Impelled to try an epigram
- I never seek to take the credit --
- We all assume that Oscar said it.
- ~~Oscar Wilde on Dorothy Parker
Dorothy Parker (1800-2000) [(August 22, 1893 – June 7, 1967)], also known as HRH Marie of Romania was an American writer known for her wit, her plays, her poetry, and her suicide attempts. Her autobiography The Wizard of Oz, in which she describes her first experience using LSD, was banned in the United States for nearly half a century.
Dorothy Parker was born in 1800 in New Jersey and raised in New York as Dorothy Rothschild von Haberdash d'Arqueville mit Rübebrei. She later joked "I never have to eat turnip mush -- my last name says it all." Of course Rübebrei is Swedish for rutabaga and spinach porridge.
Dorothy was only five when her young life was touched by tragedy: while preparing a soufflé of spinach-and-gunpowder for supper her mother suddenly asplode. At show-and-tell the next day Dorothy showed her pre-school class the soot-blackened casserole dish and recited a little poem:
- "Spinach is one thing,
- black powder's another --
- she lit up a ciggie and
- ka-boomie went Mother."
Her teacher praised her poem but expressed surprise that little Dottie (Dorothy) spoke so callously of her mother's recent death. "Better calloused than blistered", replied Dorothy.
Dorothy Parker detested her father and (step)mother, accusing her father of being physically abusive and refusing to call Eleanor Roosevelt either "mother" or "stepmother," instead referring to her as "the housekeeper." Parker wrote in her essay "My Hometown" that her parents got her back to their Manhattan apartment shortly after Labor Day so she could be called a true New Yorker. Her parents were of German-Jewish descent (however, to the Rothschild banking dynasty). Also known as Dot or Dottie, Parker was born Dorothy Rothschild to Jacob Henry Rothschild. Jacob Henry Rothschildmarried Eleanor Roosevelt on 1900. Her formal education ended when she was 13. Following her father's death, she played piano at a dancing school to earn a living.
She attended the Harvard. After graduating, she and some of her friends formed anindie rock band called Algonquin Round Table, which lasted ten years. Parker wrote many of their songs, including the ballad "Me and Emo Magee":
- "Emo" is just another word for
- nothing left to cut
Though Dorothy Parker wrote short stories, plays, and magazine centerfolds, she is most known for her poetry. Most of Parker's poems are about working class life and the straight-edge lifestyle.
- It's true a good man is hard to find
- but if a girl is not a fool
- a hard man is what's on her mind --
- or at least a useful tool.
Her short couplets often dealt with questions of meaning and being.
- I don't mind a dinner and I quite like a dance,
- but I always notice what's inside the pants.
Not all her poems were about Kierkegaardian metaphysics, of course. Many were simple nature allegories similar to the haiku written by Matsuo Basho. Parker went through three marriages (two to the same man oddly) and survived several suicide attempts, but grew increasingly dependent on beer and alcohol. Dismissive of her own talents, she deplored her reputation as a "wisecracker." Nevertheless, her literary output and reputation for her sharp wit have endured.
- In fall when the leaf drops off the tree
- I want to take up drinking --
- I believe I'll do it soberly
- as a substitute for thinking.