Overheard

 

I don’t want to be classed as a humorist.
It makes me feel guilty.
I’ve never read a good tough quotable female humorist,
and I never was one myself. I couldn’t do it.
A “smartcracker” they called me,
and that makes me sick and unhappy.
There’s a hell of a distance between
wisecracking and wit. Wit has truth in it;
wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.

Dorothy Parker

 

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~ by eaesthete on 01/09/09.

4 Responses to “Overheard”

  1. I only ever knew of Parker from having read Harpo Marx’s autobio and then someone posted a few quips at metafilter and someone else suggested a book. *Somewhere* I still have a link as a reminder to become better acquainted with that saucy smarty pants. She’s become this romantic ephemeral figure in my neurocosmos. Perhaps the better for the relative briefness of our encounter?
    That’s a remarkably revealing and honest quote for a someone whose shtick was the riposte. Commendably, nearly sadly, revealing.

    • Very insightful of you to notice the discrepancy, peacay, but isn’t it rather common knowledge that those of great humor often harbor the most secret of sadnesses. The posted quote was taken out of Paris Review Interviews, Vol. 1. It was conducted in 1956 in Mrs. Parker’s midtown New York hotel by Marion Capron who described Parker this way:

      [She] “was a small woman, her voice gentle, her tone often apologetic, but occasionally, given the opportunity to comment on matters she felt strongly about, she spoke almost harshly, and her sentences were punctuated with observations phrased with lethal force. Hers was still the wit that made her a legend as a member of the Round Table of the Algonquin—a humor whose particular quality seemed a coupling of brilliant social commentary with a mind of devastating inventiveness. She seemed able to produce the well-turned phrase for any occasion. A friend remembered sitting next to her at the theatre when the news was announced of the death of the stolid Calvin Coolidge. “How can they tell?” whispered Mrs. Parker.

      Readers of this interview, however, 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.” And she had a similar attitude toward her value as a serious writer. But Mrs. Parker was her own worst critic. Her three books of poetry may have established her reputation as a master of light verse, but her short stories were essentially serious in tone—serious in that they reflected her own life, which was in many ways an unhappy one..”

  2. I’d settle for being able to crack wise as well as she did.

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