Friday, July 15, 2011

If you do not like me so...

Dorothy Parker, 1893-1967
posted by Melissa
From "Indian Summer"
by Dorothy Parker

But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do;
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!

Amy introduced me to Dorothy Parker this month.  How had I not known of her before?  Her dark outlook, her dry wit, her penchant for a good time (ok, getting drunk).  They all point directly to someone I should know about.  

We watched a movie of her life the other night, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.  Dorothy was played by Jennifer Jason Leigh.  I have read some really bad reviews of her performance, based mostly on people being annoyed by the accent.  I thought she did a great job.  Now, I don't know what Dorothy sounded like in real life, but I do know what someone who's drunk sounds like, and she nailed it, in my opinion.  

The Algonquin table was the name of a group of writers living in New York City in the 1920's.  The founding members were Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and Robert Sherwood.  Along came many other that lunched there almost daily.  Among the member along the way were John Peter Toohey, Harpo Marx, Harold Ross (The New Yorker editor) and Tallulah Bankhead came around once in a while.  

The movie depicted the "Algonquin Round Table" as group of writers that were never seen writing, always seen drinking and sometimes performed unlikely song and dance numbers.  There were always the meetings at the Algonquin Hotel, parties in their lavish and well decorated apartments and a trip to the country for a picnic.  

I was partly inspired and mostly confused.  Inspired by the thought of living in a creative community.  In college, in my English literature days, I dreamt of living abroad with other writers.  We would always get together and share creative ideas, building upon the excitement of all of our talent and originality.  We would sit in cafes and drink coffee and wine, maybe smoke a cigarette or two.

As I researched the Algonquin Round Table, I found this quote from Dorothy during an interview years after the Table had come to a close.
"These were no giants. Think who was writing in those days—Lardner, Fitzgerald, Faulkner and Hemingway. Those were the real giants. The Round Table was just a lot of people telling jokes and telling each other how good they were. Just a bunch of loudmouths showing off, saving their gags for days, waiting for a chance to spring them....There was no truth in anything they said. It was the terrible day of the wisecrack, so there didn't have to be any truth.."
And the title of the movie is for good reason, Grouch Marx (brother of Table member Harpo) was quoted as saying he was never comfortable around the table because, "The price of admission is a serpent's tongue and a half-concealed stiletto."  Their wit could be vicious indeed.

The confusing part was all the beautiful clothes and apartments these writers lived in.  Really?  In NYC, as a writer, spending all day at a hotel having lunch and drinks?  I guess it was partly Hollywood movie, and maybe they came from money?  Either way, I let that part go and truly did enjoy the movie, despite the fact that I now cannot read a Dorothy Parker poem without that ridiculous accent.  

You know?  The more I think about it, I do have a creative community.  My apartment building, my blog with Amy and the fact that she lives right upstairs and we can chat and inspire each other nearly every day.  We can even drink like Dorothy too, sometimes!  Anyway, I feel grateful to have what I have.  To know that I can make it what I want; if I want a more creative community, I can build that.  I wonder in what ways it will actualize.

I just got a new Parker book in the mail, The Portable Dorothy Parker edited by Marion Meade.  It has a lovely drawing on the cover and of course, a wonderful little Parker poem in the jacket:

Drink and Dance
and Laugh and Lie,
Love, the Reeling Midnight Through,
For Tomorrow We Shall Die!
(But, Alas, We Never Do.)

It also contains some of her short stories, which I am eager to discover.  But instead, this weekend will be full of camping at Lake Wenatchee, memorizing the bones of the skull and spine, memorizing "If" by Rudyard Kipling and as always, fighting with hanging out with my lovely children.



Matty said...

Great post. Salut.

Melissa said...

Thanks, Matt! I am really enjoying some Dorothy Parker these days. Oh well, alas, back to Kipling, for the big recitation.