Friday, October 18, 2013

I've been tearing through a collection of stories by Dorothy Parker.  What a tricky trickster, hiding her caustic and wounding messages behind a screen of neutrality and intentionally sparse writing.  It must be highly disorienting for people who take everything (or anything) at face value.  We wouldn't know.

Someone I used to know referred to me for years as Little Dorothy Parker.  I was mildly offended at the time - "You make a couple of sarcastic remarks and suddenly you're the queen of the miserable blades?" but I got over it.  I don't think he had ever read anything I wrote, so perhaps he was just trying to let me know that he knew about a writer, namedropping the dead.

I'm always surprised (sometimes offended) by the way people perceive me, either because I do find it to be wildly inaccurate, or so loaded up with their own projections as to be useless or irrelevant to comment on.  Luckily, I no longer care how I am treated in the minds of people who aren't part of my ever tightening sphere.  I always said I didn't care before, but now it's real.  The magic of aging!  These days, the only people who are still able to set me into fits and reactionary tantrums are, of course, my parents.  They have lived to thrice regret every sideways comment they have made about religion or politics in my presence.  As they should.  #adolescent

In Parker's stories, everyone is deluded, a bore, smugly bourgeois, self-obsessed or all of the above.  She lets her characters hang themselves with no encouragement or comment.  That's a skill I'd like to master: silently and invisibly allowing people to show their flaws or ill intent without having to offer my commentations.  But I have so many of them!

In one of Truman Capote's later stories, the title of which I've forgotten but it's from the unfinished "Answered Prayers," he recreates, falsifies or recounts a night in which a drunk Dorothy Parker and Tallulah Bankhead show up to a dinner party where they meet an also-wasted Montgomery Clift. At this time, he is young, beautiful, on the cusp of his career and gay as a parade, which doesn't stop the crones from delightedly and lasciviously batting him around.  It stuck with me, although any story about him makes me sad.

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