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Dorothy Parker’s Guide to Life

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Today marks the 119th birthday of poet, critic, and political activist Dorothy Parker. Known for her sharp wisecracks, biting criticism, and caustic social commentary, her wit was a breath of Oscar Wilde air in the 20th century. Parker rose to acclaim while at Vanity Fair, where she wrote theater criticism. It was during this time that she became one of the founding members of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of esteemed New York writers, critics, and actors — who were equally well-known for their active social lives. After moving to The New Yorker, Parker continued to write criticism as well as sharp, humorous poems. Later in life, she became a left-wing political activist and was placed on the Hollywood blacklist.

After the jump, we celebrate the abundance of wisecracks, witticisms, and pearls of wisdom that Parker bestowed on the world by compiling her thoughts on topics such as men, money, writing, style, and love.

Dorothy Parker on writing

“It’s easier to write about those you hate — just as it’s easier to criticize a bad play or a bad book.”

“If you’re going to write, don’t pretend to write down. It’s going to be the best you can do, and it’s the fact that it’s the best you can do that kills you.”

“I hate writing, I love having written.”

“All those writers who write about their childhood! Gentle God, if I wrote about mine you wouldn’t sit in the same room with me.”

“Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.”

Dorothy Parker on men

“I had been fed, in my youth, a lot of old wives’ tales about the way men would instantly forsake a beautiful woman to flock around a brilliant one. It is but fair to say that, after getting out in the world, I had never seen this happen.”

“Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”

“I won’t telephone him. I’ll never telephone him again as long as I live. He’ll rot in hell, before I’ll call him up. You don’t have to give me strength, God; I have it myself. If he wanted me, he could get me. He knows where I am. He knows I’m waiting here. He’s so sure of me, so sure. I wonder why they hate you, as soon as they are sure of you.” – from Parker’s short story “A Telephone Call”

“I require three things in a man: he must be handsome, ruthless, and stupid.”

Dorothy Parker on money

“I’d like to have money. And I’d like to be a good writer. These two can come together, and I hope they will, but if that’s too adorable, I’d rather have money.”

“I hate almost all rich people, but I think I’d be darling at it.”

“Take care of luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves.”

“The two most beautiful words in the English language are ‘cheque enclosed.'”

Dorothy Parker on love

“Love is like quicksilver in the hand. Leave the fingers open and it stays. Clutch it, and it darts away.”

“Lips that taste of tears, they say / Are the best for kissing.”

“Scratch a lover, and find a foe.”

“And if my heart be scarred and burned, / The safer, I, for all I learned; / The calmer, I, to see it true / That ways of love are never new — / The love that sets you daft and dazed / Is every love that ever blazed; / The happier, I, to fathom this: / A kiss is every other kiss.”

Dorothy Parker on style

“If you wear a short enough skirt, the party will come to you.”

“A little bad taste is like a nice dash of paprika.”

“Where’s the man could ease a heart / Like a satin gown?”

“Those who have mastered etiquette, who are entirely, impeccably right, would seem to arrive at a point of exquisite dullness.”

“All I say is, nobody has any business to go around looking like a horse and behaving as if it were all right. You don’t catch horses going around looking like people, do you?”- from the short story “Horsie”