“You might as well live” is the world-weary last line of one of Dorothy Parker’s more quoted ditties, “Resume.” It’s quintessential Parker—bite the bullet of life, ideally with a gin in one hand, and a pen in the other. Parker’s sardonic stories of socialites, and secretaries, and hapless men of all kinds reflected the post-Jazz Age in which she worked, but also something universal that has kept them alive to this day.
SELECTED SHORTS celebrated the New Yorker writer and doyenne of the Algonquin Roundtable of literary wits at a special evening at Symphony Space. It featured some of her brassiest female characters in story and verse.
The first story, “The Sexes,” could serve as a how-to manual for completely humbling your boyfriend. It features a calculating flapper and her bewildered beau. The polite venom is doled out by Parker Posey, a star in many of Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries such as Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show.
What Parker could do in prose, she could also do in poetry. In the pithy “Bohemia,” she tells us what she really thinks of the arty crowd. Reader Heather Burns has appeared in such films as Miss Congeniality and What’s Your Number? On television she’s appeared recently on Save Me and Elementary.
Burns is also the reader of Parker’s wicked parody of her own working methods: “In the Throes: The Precious Thoughts of an Author at Work.” Parker once excused a late assignment by explaining that “somebody was using the pencil,” and this appears to be the back story.
One of Parker’s most popular stories is “The Standard of Living,” in which two secretaries go on a fantasy buying spree. They are, Parker says, “conspicuous, cheap, and charming,” but they are brought to life by elegant Hope Davis.
Any one of Parker’s women might have been happy to keep company with the feisty coffee shop employee in Robert Coover’s charming fantasy “The Waitress.” Sonia Manzano reads.