Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This? Summary

Marion Meade

Dorothy Parker

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The popular conception of Dorothy Parker--as a woman of stinging wit who shone even among literary luminaries gathered at the Algonquin Hotel in New York for conversation and intoxication--is accurate but incomplete. As Meade demonstrates in this exceptionally well-researched and thorough biography, Parker did not stop writing after the 1920’s nor did she vanish into obscurity when the era she called the ’dingy decade’ ended. Until her death in 1967, she continued to live an idiosyncratic, politically active, and socially involved existence, outlasting almost all of her celebrated contemporaries to find herself lauded at the end of her life by an entirely different generation of writers and artists.

Parker’s ripostes and deflations are well-enough known to have become a part of American culture, but she was also a writer of carefully composed and surprisingly durable verse that still captures the mood of a moment with delicacy and precision. In addition, she was the coauthor of many screenplays and the author of quite a few short stories. As a book reviewer, she was best known for the pieces she did for THE NEW YORKER as the “Constant Reader.”

None of this information is particularly surprising, nor is her social life spent amid journalists and theatrical people, as well as with some of the most prominent writers in the United States, including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edmund Wilson, Lillian Hellman, and eventually...

(The entire section is 489 words.)