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Posts Tagged ‘Dorothy Parker’

The Eternal Ham

September 25, 2015 | by

Anne Vallayer-Coster, Still Life with a Ham, 1767.

Dorothy Parker is said to have been the author of one of the best quotes in history: “Eternity is a ham and two people.” Like many such quips, it’s hard to find the original source—although in this case, we can safely assume that life was certainly the direct inspiration. 

It’s not just that hams are big—they were even more massive in Parker’s day than they are now—or that a little of the salty meat goes a long way. It’s also the fact that a ham goes immediately from a thing of festive beauty (cue pineapple rings, scored surfaces studded with cloves, glistening patina) to a professional leftover. It goes very gentle into that good night. And, because it is cured, and because it can be used in so many ways, and because you can always, always scrape more meat off that bone—well, you’re really never justified in throwing it away. It’s with you for eternity. Read More »

Booksellers Week

May 11, 2015 | by


Carl Spitzweg, Kunst und Wissenschaft (detail), ca. 1880.

One of the few remaining bastions of character on New York’s Upper West Side is its smattering of sidewalk booksellers. Up and down Broadway—displaying wares by American Apparel, blasting Bach, and hawking signed Roth novels in front of Zabar’s, dressed in velvet by the Eighty-Sixth Street Uptown 1—these are the folks who keep the neighborhood alive.  

Over the weekend, I was perusing the stall of a certain bookseller when another customer—a “character” in a many-pocketed fishing-tackle vest—strode up and began barraging the mild-mannered proprietor with questions. Read More »

Fresh Hell

August 22, 2014 | by


Dorothy Parker

If you wish to celebrate Dorothy Parker’s birthday with a small gift to yourself, you have many options. An Etsy search of the writer’s name will give you letterpress prints and pillows and pins; a locket; earrings, several flasks; a bracelet; a range of portraits, including a cat in a cloche; a sampler; and a choice of two dolls. And the tote bags! Ah, the tote bags. Need I even mention the tote bags? I am not immune; yesterday, I treated myself to a Dorothy Parker cocktail, made with Dorothy Parker gin. At the Algonquin, no less. (There is also a certain charm to “what fresh hell” spelled out in Morse Code.)

Dorothy Parker’s Art of Fiction interview, from 1956, has always been among my favorites. She has no interest in glamorizing her reputation. She has scant regard for her much-vaunted wit. From the interview’s introduction: “Readers of this interview ... will find that Mrs. Parker had only contempt for the eager reception accorded her wit.” “Why, it got so bad,” she had said bitterly, “that they began to laugh before I opened my mouth.” I can’t think of an interview more honest, or more generous. She refuses to call herself a serious writer, saying:

There’s a hell of a distance between wisecracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words. I didn’t mind so much when they were good, but for a long time anything that was called a crack was attributed to me—and then they got the shaggy dogs.

And on the vaunted Round Table: “I wasn’t there very often—it cost too much. Others went. Kaufman was there. I guess he was sort of funny.”

Say what she will, no one can take away from the body of her quotables—or, for that matter, an easy cultural shorthand that reduces her to bons mots. But for my money, there’s no quote that sticks with you quite so much as the final lines of that interview:

It’s not the tragedies that kill us, it’s the messes. I can’t stand messes. I’m not being a smartcracker. You know I’m not when you meet me—don’t you, honey?

Coming of Age

February 7, 2014 | by


Valenciennes lace of Ypres, 1875

The summer before I started college, I worked part-time in an antique linens shop in an East Coast vacation town. The owner, Theresa, was a warm, elegant woman who taught me not just how to do bookkeeping and how to tell the difference between point lace and Valenciennes, but a great deal about how to treat other people, too.

The rest of the time, I worked as a waitress at a nearby restaurant. My fellow employees included a shifty-eyed Hare Krishna named Heather, a bartender called Kenny who liked to try to shock me, and a thirtysomething bodyworker, Julia, who had the unfortunate habit of telling people on the slightest pretext that she had attended “a little school in New Haven.”

At the linens shop, I helped iron and fold the stock and assisted customers. Mostly, Theresa and I would talk: about her family leaving Havana after the revolution; about the history of the town; about her dashing husband and how they met when she was a receptionist at a clinic. (He’d had a dislocated shoulder and she let him jump the line.) “Always spend more on flowers than on food,” she once told me. “Good for the soul, better for the waistline.” Read More »

Margaret Atwood Will Not Blurb Your Book, and Other News

November 6, 2013 | by


  • “I blurb only for the dead, these days.” Margaret Atwood’s form rejection poem
  • For centuries, Beowulf scholars have translated the epic’s opening line as, “Listen!” But now, Dr. George Walkden argues that “the use of the interrogative pronoun ‘hwæt’ (rhymes with cat) means the first line is not a standalone command but informs the wider exclamatory nature of the sentence which was written by an unknown poet between 1,200 and 1,300 years ago.”
  • In the past year, ninety-eight small UK publishers went under, a 42 percent rise from the year prior.
  • We wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but here is a guide to how to drink like Dorothy Parker.




September 23, 2013 | by


“Where’s the man that could ease a heart like a satin gown?” and other instances of lingerie in literature. (Yes, completely SFW.)