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As a respite from the misbegotten federal marriage amendment

I wandered into a bookstore in D.C. yesterday and picked up a copy of The Portable Dorothy Parker for $17. Parker is the clever writer/witticist who was active mostly in the 1920s and 1930s. She wrote poems, short stories, reviews, and essays.

From "Fulfillment":

For this my mother wrapped me warm,
And called me home against the storm,
And coaxed my infant nights to quiet,
And gave me roughage in my diet,
And tucked me in my bed at eight,
And clipped my hair, and marked my weight,
And watched me as I sat and stood:
That I might grow to womanhood
To hear a whistle and drop my wits
And break my heart to clattering bits.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Dorothy Parker on New York:
  2. Dorothy Parker on insomnia:
  3. As a respite from the misbegotten federal marriage amendment
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Dorothy Parker on insomnia:

She died 39 years ago today, as one reader reminded me. This is from an amusing little essay called "The Little Hours" on trying to get to sleep when you're wide awake at 4:20 a.m.:

And what suggestion has anyone to murmur as to how I am going to drift lightly back to slumber? . . . I really can't be expected to drop everything and start counting sheep, at my age. I hate sheep. Untender it may be in me, but all my life I've hated sheep. It amounts to a phobia, the way I hate them. I can tell the minute there's one in the room. They needn't think that I am going to lie here in the dark and count their unpleasant little faces for them; I wouldn't do it if I didn't fall asleep again until the middle of next August. Suppose they never get counted -- what's the worst that can happen? If the number of imaginary sheep in this world remains a matter of guesswork, who is richer or poorer for it? No, sir; I'm not their scorekeeper. Let them count themselves, if they're so crazy mad after mathematics. Let them do their own dirty work. Coming around here, at this time of day, and asking me to count them! And not even real sheep, at that. Why, it's the most preposterous thing I ever heard in my life.

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Dorothy Parker on New York:

On this happy morning, it seems right to quote from her ode to America's greatest city. From her essay, published in McCall's in January 1928, entitled "My Home Town":

It occurs to me that there are other towns. It occurs to me so violently that I say, at intervals, "Very well, if New York is going to be like this, I'm going to live somewhere else." And I do — that's the funny part of it. But then one day there comes to me the sharp picture of New York at its best, on a shiny blue-and-white Autumn day with its buildings cut diagonally in halves of light and shadow, with its straight neat avenues colored with quick throngs, like confetti in a breeze. Some one, and I wish it had been I, has said that "Autumn is the Springtime of big cities." I see New York at holiday time, always in the late afternoon, under a Maxfield Parish sky, with the crowds even more quick and nervous but even more good-natured, the dark groups splashed with the white of Christmas packages, the lighted holly-strung shops urging them in to buy more and more. I see it on a Spring morning, with the clothes of the women as soft and as hopeful as the pretty new leaves on a few, brave trees. I see it at night, with the low skies red with the black-flung lights of Broadway, those lights of which Chesterton — or they told me it was Chesterton — said, "What a marvelous sight for those who cannot read!" I see it in the rain, I smell the enchanting odor of wet asphalt, with the empty streets black and shining as ripe olives. I see it — by this time, I become maudlin with nostalgia — even with its gray mounds of crusted snow, its little Appalachians of ice along the pavements. So I go back. And it is always better than I thought it would be.

I suppose that is the thing about New York. It is always a little more than you had hoped for. Each day, there, is so definitely a new day. "Now we'll start over," it seems to say every morning, "and come on, let's hurry like anything."

London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it. There is excitement ever running its streets. Each day, as you go out, you feel the little nervous quiver that is yours when you sit in the theater just before the curtain rises. Other places may give you a sweet and soothing sense of level; but in New York there is always the feeling of "Something's going to happen." It isn't peace. But, you know, you do get used to peace, and so quickly. And you never get used to New York.

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