The Wit Of Dorothy Parker

"Four be the things I'd been better without: love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt."

-- Dorothy Parker

In a world brimming with cant and cliches, the acrid wit of a poet like Dorothy Parker is as welcome as fresh winds in a crowded, musty room. Parker (1893-1967) got her start as a drama critic for Vanity Fair and moved on as a regular columnist for The New Yorker. She later produced several acclaimed works of poetry (Enough Rope, Sunset Gun, and Death And Taxes), two collections of short stories (Laments For The Living, After Such Pleasures), and wrote two Broadway plays ("Close Harmony," "Ladies of the Corridor"). With sententious candor she probed the darker sides of love and relationships and proved that light verse was no less admirable for being sardonic than for being dulcet.

Below is a smidgen of her genius, along with a few good references.

Unfortunate Coincidence
By the time you swear you're his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying --
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

General Review Of The Sex Situation
Woman wants monogamy;
Man delights in novelty.
Love is woman's moon and sun;
Man has other forms of fun.
Woman lives but in her lord;
Count to ten, and man is bored.
With this the gist and sum of it,
What earthly good can come of it?

If I had a shiny gun,
I could have a world of fun
Speeding bullets through the brains
Of the folk who give me pains;

Or had I some poison gas,
I could make the moments pass
Bumping off a number of
People whom I do not love.

But I have no lethal weapon --
Thus does Fate our pleasure step on!
So they still are quick and well
Who should be, by rights, in hell.

If I don't drive around the park,
I'm pretty sure to make my mark.
If I'm in bed each night by ten.
I may get back my looks again.
If I abstain from fun and such.
I'll probably amount to much;
But I shall stay the way I am.
Because I do not give a damn.

Charles Dickens
Who call him spurious and shoddy
Shall do it o'er my lifeless body.
I heartily invite such birds
To come outside and say those words!

If I should labor through daylight and dark,
Consecrate, valorous, serious, true,
Then on the world I may blazon my mark;
And what if I don't, and what if I do?


Parker, enjoying quite a reputation for punning, was once challenged to make a pun out of "horticulture". Her response: "You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think."

Works On Dorothy Parker:

John Keats, You Might As Well Live: The Life And Times Of Dorothy Parker (1986).

Marion Meade, Dorothy Parker (1988).


Brief Biography

Biography & Poems