Thursday, June 30, 2011

Distaff Laffs For Your Amusement And Betterment

Let's get right to it, shall we?

Sometimes people say to me "who is Dorothy Parker?"

Those people are wrong.

Dorothy Parker is THE BEST and is also THE BEST. If you like drinking and reading about people drinking and you enjoy laughing and reading about people drinking, then you enjoy Dorothy Parker.

There is nobody wittier and more full of vim and fizz than Ms. Parker save Oscar Wilde. You will run out of bookmarks, marking the funniest, cleverest passages and you will feel like someone dropped an alka-seltzer tablet into your brain.

The Portable Dorothy Parker collects all of her most important stories, poems, essays, theatre and book reviews (which are a howl), and letters in one paperback tome. For all but the scholar, this is all the Dorothy Parker you're likely to need and I recommend it as highly as I possibly can.

If you ever want to be the sort of person who can charm the Carole Lombards of this world, you had better get yourself a working familiarity with the works of Dorothy Parker (and an ascot, natch).


Fran Lebowitz is often compared to Dorothy Parker. This is probably because she is a woman, is funny, and has a certain cynical joie de vivre.

All of these comparisons are fair, but Fran Lebowitz is really her own animal. She's jokier than Dorothy Parker, for starters. Her writing shares more in common with the comedy essays of Woody Allen than with the satirical frothiness of Ms. Parker. Curiously, many of the selections in The Fran Lebowitz Reader, which collects her first two (and only) books, seem more dated (they were all written in the late 70s) than do the selections in The Portable Dorothy Parker. So, sometimes, whatever verve and archness that might have come lancing through the page thirty years ago seems somewhat dulled by the march of time or by the wash of irony that has covered everything.

But there are these moments of page-kissingly brilliant comedy writing that make the whole thing worthwhile. For example, in the book's very first piece, one of Ms. Lebowitz's many paeans to latesleeping (bless her!), the following:

"12:35 P.M. - The phone rings. I am not amused. This is not my favorite way to wake up. My favorite way to wake up is to have a certain French movie star whisper to me softly at two-thirty in the afternoon that if I want to get to Sweden in time to pick up my Nobel Prize for Literature I had better ring for breakfast. This occurs rather less often than one might wish."

Are you sold?

You ought to be. She's a damned national treasure.

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