The Hobo Philosopher
"You Might as Well Live" - Dorothy Parker
A Biography by John Keats
By Richard Edward Noble
Prior to reading this biography most of what I knew of Dorothy Parker came from reading quotations attributed to her in one book or another. While reading this biography, I have also been reading selections from “The Portable Dorothy Parker” trying to get a first hand taste of what she sounded like.
As always seems to be the case with people noted for humor, Dorothy’s life is not very funny.
She was often financially prosperous and somehow always seemed to have money – or patrons. When she was wealthy, she spent her money, more often than not, foolishly. It seems that the consensus is that she was an attractive and fascinating woman. There is a picture on the cover of the book that testifies to that fact.
But as I lay the book down completed, I can’t help thinking of Marilyn Monroe. Dorothy was certainly Marilyin-ish in her confusion and insecurity with men. She was obviously lucky enough to find a loving man in the person of Alan Campbell. But it seems that she was not very deserving of his loyalty. She treated him horribly but yet he stuck with her. They separated off and on but eventually spent their last years together.
She was an anti-Nazi. She lived through the McCarthy Era and was labeled a PAF – a premature anti-Fascist. She, like many other intellectuals of her day, hated Adolf Hitler before the U.S. government declared such an attitude to be appropriate. She had difficulty getting work for a period but she was already established and had income from her royalties. At one point she was refused a passport due to her Leftist attitudes, writings and associations.
It is very clear that she was an alcoholic.
In reading a few of her short stories and some of her poems there is no doubt that she was intelligent. Her writing is thoughtful and I think that her stories and poetry will turn out to be more enjoyable than reading about her life. Her reviews of plays and other writers are much like all the others in that profession – they are accurate some of the time and totally inaccurate at other times. They are simply opinions.
I will continue reading her anthology – giving special attention to the poetry and the short stories.
As a male I feel that I have met Dorothy Parker type women. She loves you – she loves you not, is the problem. Women like her are so insecure in themselves that it permeates all their relationship. When they have you, they don’t want you; and when you leave, they long and whimper for the day that you will return. They are like the old Punch and Judy game.
For myself, I am very happy that at some point, I outgrew this type woman. They can’t be happy themselves. There is no right way to treat them. And to be a part of their life is to be continually involved in an emotional calamity. They can never make themselves happy and they can’t make their men happy either. Dorothy was extremely fortunate to have found Alan Campbell from what I have read in this biography. Nevertheless for some strange reason Dorothy Parker still manages to draw my pity and my curiosity.