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Definition: Parker, Dorothy from Philip's Encyclopedia

US poet, short-story writer, and critic. She wrote three volumes of poetry, the first of which, Enough Rope (1926), was a best-seller. A large body of her short stories were collected in Here Lies (1939). Her gift for witty epigrams is evident throughout her work.


Summary Article: Parker, Dorothy
from Chambers Biographical Dictionary

née

Rothschild

1893-1967

US wit, short-story writer and journalist

She was born in West End, New Jersey, the daughter of a clothes salesman. Her mother died when she was five and her father re-married; Dorothy could barely contain her antipathy to her stepmother and refused to address her. She attended a private parochial school in New York City run by the Sisters of Charity, and Miss Dana's School in Morristown, New Jersey, where the typical girl was "equipped with a restfully uninquiring mind". She lasted only a few months and her formal education ended in 1908 at the age of 14. She was a voracious reader and, having read William Thackeray when she was eleven, decided to make literature her life. In 1916 she sold some of her poetry to the editor of Vogue, and was subsequently given an editorial position on the magazine, writing captions for fashion photographs and drawings. She then became drama critic of Vanity Fair (1917-20), where she met Robert Benchley and Robert Sherwood and formed with them the nucleus of the legendary Algonquin Hotel Round Table luncheon group in the 1920s. Famed for her spontaneous wit and acerbic criticism, she has had attributed to her many cruel wisecracks and backhanded compliments. She was at her most trenchant in stories and book reviews in the early issues (1927-33) of the The New Yorker, a magazine whose character she did much to form. Her work continued to appear in the magazine at irregular intervals until 1955. Her reviews were collected in A Month of Saturdays (1971). She also wrote for Esquire and published poems and sketches. Her poems are included in Not So Deep as a Well (1930) and Enough Rope (1926), which became a bestseller. Her short stories were collected in Here Lies (1936). She also collaborated on several film scripts, including A Star Is Born (1937) and The Little Foxes (1941). Her own last play was Ladies of the Corridor (1953). Twice married (1917 and 1933), she took her surname from her first husband. Her public persona was not mirrored in her personal life. Both marriages foundered and there was a string of lacerating love affairs, abortive suicide attempts, abortions, debts and drinking bouts. She died alone in a Manhattan apartment with Troy, her poodle, at her side.

  • Keats, J, You Might As Well Live (1971).
© Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2011

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