The Poetry and Short Stories of Dorothy Parker

By Dorothy Parker

1,321 ratings - 4.49* vote

... more

Book details

Hardcover, 457 pages
August 30th 1994 by Modern Library
Original Title
The Poetry and Short Stories of Dorothy Parker (Modern Library)
0679601325 (ISBN13: 9780679601326)
Edition Language

Community Reviews


I'm not a big fan of poetry in general--with a few exceptions to that. Dorothy Parker is number one on that list. Not concerned with social etiquette at the time, she spoke her mind, and her writings clearly exhibit this trait. A prime example on her take of relationships:
"Lady, lady, should you meet
One whose ways are all discreet,
One who murmurs that his wife
Is the lodestar of his life,
One who keeps assuring you
That he never was untrue,
Never loved another one . . .
Lady, lady, better run!"


The Poetry and Short Stories of Dorothy Parker

In youth, it was a way I had
To do my best to please
And change, with every passing lad,
To suit his theories

But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do;
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!

’Indian Summer’ from Enough Rope

Parker was famous for her sardonic wit and as one of the members of the Algonquin round table. Over her lifetime she wrote more material than I had realized.

I liked those Parker poems and stories that are rich with detail but most of her poetry feels quite dated.

Notably Parker wrote a lot about relationships in her short stories. Having been through failed marriages of her own she was keenly aware of the proclivities of the unfaithful.

Here were the poems and short stories that I enjoyed the most.

1. Braggart

This poem features beauty in personification haranguing an older lady. One of my favorite poems

2. Hearthside

While sitting by the fire, a lament to a wanderer’s spirit and all the places that she will never see.

Short Stories

1. Mr. Durant

A middle aged man at an ad agency hires a young unmarried stenographer. The two soon have an affair and with come big problems. A story ahead of its time, reminiscent of John Cheever’s writing.

2. Clothe the Naked

A story steeped with empathy about distinct class differences in New York City. A destitute maid tries to raise her blind grandchild despite her meager earnings.

3. Big Blonde

Parker’s most famous short story and my favorite as well. A woman named Hazel for whom men ‘wag their heads roguishly’ is living and enjoying life in NYC throughout the Roaring ‘20s. By the time she is ready to settle down she is thirty but still has many offers of marriage. She settles on Herbie who seems nice and she is more than happy to stay at home. Turns out Herbie is not a great catch and despite her best efforts the marriage quickly sours. Herbie leaves her and takes a job in Chicago. She soon begins long bouts with depression and goes back to work and dating again but can’t shake the hopeless feeling . This fictional story predates Marilyn Monroe but the arc feels eerily similar to Marilyn’s life story.

3.5 stars. There is good material in this collection but a lot of average fare to sift through.


The poetry is not only clever and brilliant, it's genius. This is the best poetry in the English language.

All of the short stories are good and several of the short stories achieve greatness. Big Blonde and Glory In The Daytime are a couple of my personal favorites upon first read-through. All of the short stories have some thread of classism connecting them, followed by the themes of gender and relationships and a little bit of racism thrown in for good measure. Sometimes the themes and the satirical way they're presented seems a little heavy-handed -- Horsie and Clothe The Naked, etc. -- which is not that they aren't good, but they can induce cringing. On the surface, it's not blood and guts and war and sex but these are difficult topics nevertheless. The underlying violence is subverted with humor. Ultimately, I don't consider Dorothy Parker's work to be humorous. Clever yes, funny no.

I don't know if the themes relate to the fundamental human condition or if Dorothy Parker and I are just kindred mordant souls, but I relate to the whole book as if I had written it all myself (if I were a literary genius, that is). I know I've said that I didn't believe in such a thing as literary genius, but Dorothy Parker has changed my mind.


I discovered Ms. Parker through the movie starring Bridgette Fonda called Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, I think it was- about the writers who used to meet at the Algonquin Hotel, among whom Dorothy Parker was a fixture/leader. I then re-discovered her thanks to a college poetry class where I had to do a lengthy biography type project on her, and I became fascinated. She led a fascinating, if tragic, life, and her quick wit and sharp tongue show through in much of her writing. Her poetry is by turns touching and amusing. I quite enjoyed reading everything that she has written, from the poems, to the stories, to the book reviews.

B. Graves

I really love her writing. It's hard and strong and cynical at a time when women really weren't any of those things.


I have read this book cover to cover, over and over. I carry it or a version with me at most times. I've passed on copies to those who wish to understand me. Mrs. Parker wrote with the wit that could cut through the most pretentious of subjects. Her musings inspire me as well as comfort me. I am nothing like the author in my writing style. I could only aspire to be. It makes me happy to know that she existed and wrote a few words to prove it.
Rest your soul, you beautiful woman.


Dorothy Parker is one of the most overlooked, underated writers of her era. It is so sad that when I mention her name to someone 9 times out of 10 they only recognize "Men rarely make passes at girls who wear glasses." To reduce a writer of such wit, poetry and great dialogue to one or two sarcastic quotes is truly sad.


A few sparkling turns of phrase won't disguise the fact that this is a compendium of works about people being generally horrible to each other. Even considering that Parker has a distinctive voice and that this approach was unusual for women authors of the time -- still, you know, there it is.


Dorothy Parker is brilliant.


She is undoubtedly an excellent writer and her characterizations are brilliant in their brevity and wealth of information conveyed. Unfortunately she is not the author for me because her poems are nearly all on the subject of depression or love and all her characters are unsympathetic.