March is women’s history month (in the US).
I’d like to talk about some of the women who have inspired me.
Today’s woman is Dorothy Parker. She was a critic and satirist, a poet, a short story writer, and a brilliant woman working in an “old boys’ club”. Her wit was sharp and biting, dark and bleak, and she published her first book of poetry in the mid-1920s to largely positive review. She wrote for The New Yorker, among other ‘society’ publications, and went on to Hollywood to write screenplays for a time.
I could go on about her accomplishments and the amazing things she did, but I suspect you’re going to finish reading this and then go directly to Dorothy Parker’s entry in Wikipedia (to facilitate that, I’m’a just leave this here.)
I don’t remember when I first heard about her, but I do know where I first heard about her. My grandparents – particularly my grandmother. In fact, when I heard that Dorothy Parker used to sigh and mutter “What fresh hell is this?” Whenever someone rang her or knocked at the door, I was stunned. Because *I* do that, because my *grandmother* did that. IT’S LIKE WE’RE TWINS.
Her books were read cover-to-cover when I was in junior high school. Which really is the best time to start reading Dorothy Parker, because you already have no faith in humanity, and the worst self-confidence possible, so reading her cutting words was perfect. Her poetry is full of sex, and booze, and love, and jealousy, and fear. Her short stories drilled right down into the core of my self-doubt. At least there had been someone out there who *got me*. It was also the beginning of a wonderful period of literary exploration – Parker’s contemporaries and critics – the people who were writing at the same time. I found PG Wodehouse who, to this day, is one of my favourites, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Frost, DH Lawrence – all those golden age writers.
Her work introduced me to “modern” literature, and the more I learned about who she was, what she stood for, her politics, her attitude, and her …Glob help me the best word I can come up with at the moment is “spunk”… the more I loved her. I would be pleased as punch to have her insult me. It’s a dream of mine, really.
Interesting aside: I named my computer Dorothy Parker. It’s probably wishful thinking more than anything else.