Stories from the Algonquin Roundtable's presiding wit
As this complete collection of her short stories demonstrates, Dorothy Parker's talents extended far beyond brash one-liners and clever rhymes. Her stories not only bring to life the urban milieu that was her bailiwick but lay bare the uncertainties and disappointments of ordinary people living ordinary lives.
Perhaps it was a disservice to collect all of Parker's stories in one place. Despite insistence to the contrary in a reasoned but ultimately unconvincing introduction by Regina Barreca, Parker wrote decently about the same things over and over and over. This volume includes 13 stories and nine sketches which were previously uncollected, but they blend right in with the other material on drinking and divorce among those of a certain class. Parker's stories tend to float in the shallow end of the literary pool. It's not that any individual piece is of poor quality, it's just that, collectively, the the sameness becomes unbearable. Her humor, in particular, strikes the same note every time. A quick run-through of several plots exhibits this perfectly: two women insincerely discuss an impending divorce; a couple gets drunk in preparation for becoming teetotalers the next day. The nine sketches included here are more of the same, minus any actual plot. Descriptions such as "Lloyd wears washable neckties," are amusing, but go no further. It is ironic that feminist critics are attempting to resurrect Parker, since her writing makes her disdain for her own sex perfectly clear: she feels free to disparage these women for whom marriage and dinner parties are everything, but she always goes for the easy laugh at their expense rather than explore the larger context that forced them into such rigid roles.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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December 30, 2002
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