Form and Content
The Portable Dorothy Parker, originally published in 1944, contained verse and stories composed by Parker that had been published in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Parker, known for her caustic comments and witticisms, had her first collection of poetry published in 1926. Called Enough Rope, it not only sold its entire first printing but also became a national best-seller. Most poetry anthologies were expected to be meager sellers; however, because of Dorothy Parker’s reputation, the book enjoyed enormous success, surprising her publisher, her friends, and, most of all, Parker, who always had great trouble with her own talent.
As a magazine caption writer, Parker learned that brevity must be the soul of wit. From that position at Vogue magazine, she was promoted to temporary theater critic at Vanity Fair magazine, where she established lifelong friendships with Robert Benchley and Robert Sherwood. These three, along with Alex Woollcott, George S. Kaufman, Heywood Broun, Charles MacArthur, and other notable writers of the day, dined together at the Algonquin Hotel at a round table and established what became known as “The Round Table” group, which exerted tremendous influence on the direction of American letters between the wars.
The group’s members quoted one another in print. They were quoted by others in print. They were fictionalized in novels. They were dramatized in plays. No one was more quoted, copied, and admired for humor than the only female member of the club—Dorothy Parker. Yet, for all of her apparent effervescence, she was a woman in great pain. She had one alcoholic husband and one homosexual one and a very tragic, although comfortable, childhood. She was expected to be perennially witty, and indeed she was, but her poetry and stories reveal the sorrow...
(The entire section is 749 words.)