Dorothy Parker: carousing and just fooling around



Of course, I take a certain civic pride in the fact that there is probably more nudity in our own Winter Garden than there is in any other place in the world, nevertheless, there are times during an evening’s entertainment when I pine for 11:15, so that I can go out in the street and see a lot of women with clothes on.

So said Dorothy Parker in a review of Al Jolson’s musical Sinbad back in the glory days of Broadway. She described another show as one of those shows at which you can get a lot of knitting done. Famously she said of a not-very-good actress, She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B.

June 7th is the anniversary of Parker’s death in 1967. She was an outrageous but deadly accurate theatre and book critic, but she didn’t confine herself to books and plays. We can thank her for other life lessons:

 Brevity is the soul of lingerie.

The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires.

 Every year, back comes Spring, with nasty little birds yapping their fool heads off and the ground all mucked up with plants.

 She was a fascinating character from one of the most interesting times in American literary history, the early days of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, part of the celebrated Algonquin Round Table:

and mingling with the likes of John Dos Passos, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Katherine Anne Porter, Lillian Hellman, Scott Fitzgerald and Edmund Wilson.

And, as too often with these gifted women, she was lousy at life.

She was too sensible to live in regret, but she certainly understood how much of her life she had spent carousing and just fooling around. The tragedy of Dorothy Parker, it seems to me, isn’t that she succumbed to alcoholism or died essentially alone. It was that she was too intelligent to believe that she had made the most of herself,  says Robert Gottlieb in a review of a whole swag of books by and about Dorothy Parker in the NYRB. This is a free-access article available at




9 thoughts on “Dorothy Parker: carousing and just fooling around

      1. I think that Norah Ephron (now gone), Gail Collins (of the New York Times), Molly Ivins (now gone), and many others bring a lot of Dorothy Parker’s wit to their observations (you can see that I mainly read political columnists, and they are writing about the US). Dorothy had so much of it, and with such incisiveness, that she topped them all.

  1. Very interesting woman and she lived in interesting times. Maybe fooling around is an important part of life. (maybe it depends upon who you’re fooling around with?)

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