Dorothy Parker Comes Home By Gloria Steinem (1964)


Gloria Steinem in 1964, one year before she interviewed Dorothy Parker.

“In moments of family stress my mother often would quote a line or two by Dorothy Parker (‘…better a heart a-bloom with sins/Than hearts gone yellow and dry,’ for instance, or ‘I wonder what it’s like in Spain‘), and I absorbed them along with A. A. Milne and Mother Goose. Later, in high school, I read her short stories (Big Blonde I remember especially as the height of worldly wisdom), and discovered her part in that institution so dear to the hearts of writers too young to remember, the Algonquin Round Table. By the time I got to college, though, Mrs. Parker had become a figure of mild, literary fun–we were much too erudite to suppose that writing so simple could be any good–but she remained a kind of secret woman friend whose experience of everything from unrequited love to Negro segregation was remarkably like our own. Finally, when some kindly English teacher had made us understand that ‘light verse’ was a sort of poetry, not a term of derision, I turned to her works again. And there she was, clear-eyed, unphony and astringent as ever: a writer with the voice of her generation, but enough insight and style to make much of her work–as Edmund Wilson and Somerset Maugham predicted 20 years ago–last beyond it. So it was with some trepidation that I thought about asking her for an interview: meeting long-distance friends, especially writers, is often a mistake. Besides, at the age of 71, in poor health, and newly returned to New York after the death of her husband in California two years ago, it seemed she deserves some privacy. In the end I phoned–hesitantly–the East Side apartment-hotel where she was staying, and made some kind of explanation about the interview; what it was like to be back in New York, how the city now compared with the city in the ’20’s and ’30’s. She waited politely until I trailed off. … The hotel suite looked comfortable, but pure hotel: the only personal touches in sight were two books on the coffee table (The Rector of Justin by Louis Auchincloss and P. S. Wilkinson by C. D. B. Bryan), a white plastic-lace cloth over a card table, and a very friendly small poodle named Troy. … A middle-aged practical nurse offered me a drink, made me a cup of coffee, repeated to Mrs. Parker the whereabouts of her dinner, and left for the day. Mrs. Parker, looking frail but gay in a red plaid skirt and red embroidered Mexican blouse, walked slowly to the couch and settled herself next to Troy. …”
Dorothy Parker Society: Dorothy Parker Comes Home (March 1964)
Dorothy Parker Society
W – Dorothy Parker


Dorothy Parker

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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