Man is the animal that knows he dies.

“Parker was one of the wittiest people in the world and one of the saddest; if even now we go on laughing at something she happened to say very late at night in some long-since-vanished bar, we do so at our peril.  Man is the animal that knows he dies, and the death’s-head grinning in the mirror back of all those lighted bottles is our own.  There is nothing good in life, Parker held, that will not be taken away.  One of the things she admired most in Hemingway was how he had struggled to face this problem both in his life and in his writing.  He had been so sure in youth that he would not choose his father’s way out of life, by suicide, and Parker had been so sure in youth that she could find no other means of dealing with the pain of being; and so Hemingway had killed himself and she had lived on, and toward the end, there were only ghosts in the corners of the hotel room, silently reproaching her for having had the cowardice to live.  It was no use asking them when she had ever claimed to be brave.  If, as she said, she had always been the greatest little hoper in the world, she had known that hope was a form of folly and had nothing to do with either courage or wisdom.  ‘People ought to be one of two things, young or old,’ she had written.  ‘No, what’s the use of fooling?  People ought to be one of two things, young or dead.'”

– Brendan Gill on Dorothy Parker in A New York Life:  Of Friends and Others


  1. For all that (and I can believe that hope was her last refuge, given her haunted life), she’s written, in my opinion, the greatest abortion short story in the canon – even better, I think, than Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants.”

    Anyone who’s interested, ought to check out “Mr. Durant.”


  2. ImeldaJean says

    You really know how to cheer a girl up.

  3. Jonathan Webb says

    Thanks to all.

  4. I remember going to Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle (a very well done movie about her years ago) with a good friend of mine, also Catholic–both of us walking out of that gut-punching, sad movie quietly, going down the street to get a drink together, still quiet, until finally he said “If I weren’t a Catholic, I’d be Dorothy Parker.” And I nodded and said, “Me too.”

  5. Churchill says

    Who was the actress in that film, one of my favourites, and what’s happened to her? It’s not so great being young, although you feel healthier. It would be nice to get old and fade gradually, once you can overcome the fears.

  6. Churchill says

    Jennifer Jason Leigh.

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