Dorothy Parker Stories / Dorothy Parker

This book collects twenty-four of Dorothy Parker’s best-known stories. It was my first introduction to her work. Parker began her career as a writer for Vogue magazine in 1918, and she continued to write into the 1960s. The bulk of the stories in this collection were written in the decade following World War I. She has a unique writing style that features rapid, realistic dialogue, often presenting just one side of the conversation. Words fly like the rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire across the page. While the stories are varied subject-wise, they tend to center around the often-rocky relationships between women and men, told usually from the female’s perspective. Parker is well known for wit and satire in her writing, and this collection highlights these elements. But she also captures strong human emotions that make the stories poignant as well. Her characters are mostly drawn from the upper class, and feature a world where the housewife remains at home and the husband heads into the city to toil in an ill-defined job. I found all of the stories to be entertaining, but a number of them stand out of the pack. There is the unsettling Mr. Durant that tells a husband’s nonchalant account of his affair with a secretary at his workplace and the abortion he forces upon her. Big Blonde is the sad tale of a woman’s slow descent into alcoholism and depression as the kept woman of a sugar daddy. The Waltz recounts a woman’s thoughts when dragged out onto the dance floor by a clumsy, unwanted suitor. While there is a generous amount of humor in these stories, they also convey deep insight into the human psyche. More importantly, the issues addressed are still relevant today. This collection makes for a wonderful introduction to both the “roaring Twenties” and to Parker’s remarkable talent as an author.

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