Monday, February 25, 2013

2013 Reading Goal: Dorothy Parker's Complete Stories

My latest book on my 2013 reading challenge is Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker.

Rating: 4 Stars

Complete Stories

Dorothy Parker's name kept popping up on every "to-read" list I looked  at so I knew it was about time that I read her work.  Gosh, she is a feisty, hilarious woman! She has the ability to criticize society quite harshly, but almost always ends up giving me a chuckle. She has a great written voice that seems at first to align with the character she is studying--then suddenly, she whips out these little brilliant quips that  show you the absurdity in the person or situation. Once you are familiar with her work, you can come to expect them--but it doesn't make them any less hilarious.

She'll go into these long spurts about things like the important role of "feminine touches"--how being able to straighten and move and tweak a living room was the important job of the wife. Parker will show a woman, like Mrs. Weldon in "Too Bad", going about doing her special role of "touch-giving" and afterwards, she stops to examine her work. It is at this point that Parker writes, "It was amazing how little difference they made to the room." And then the story continues. Its those small moments that Parker really shows her brilliance. She shows that society has given this idea that these small, minute details are what is important to being a woman...and yet, it doesn't even make a difference!

Regina Barreca writes in the introduction that "Parker concerns herself primarily with the emotional and intellectual landscapes of women, the places where a thin overlay of social soil covers the minefields of very personal disaffection, rejection, betrayal, and loss." And Parker does it very well. Occasionally her work seemed to repeat itself, but usually it was when she was focusing on a different area or emotion within a similar character. Sometimes this caused me to set the book down and wait for a while to pick it up a "fresh" pair of eyes was sometimes helpful when reading her work. When reading them all in a row, you start to appreciate less her wittiness and satirical humor. Usually though, once I picked the book up again, I soon found another brilliant story that caused me to think about it for days later.

There were so many goldmines in this collection. Yes, many of them caused you to laugh at the absurdity, but there were also so many that were just devastatingly sad. It will be some time before the haunting story "Big Blonde" isn't running through my head. Or "The Lovely Leave" about a woman who's husband goes to war and she is left behind. Or the double nature of "The Waltz" where on the outside, a woman is completely nice to a man but in the inside she is thinking the complete opposite. Parker shows society's ideas that a man is too important to throw insult at...that this single woman can't quite throw him to the side even though inwardly, she cringes at him.

I reallyenjoyed these stories....and think that Dorothy Parker is an important female author to read. I'm so thankful to finally have found an intelligent and witty female author that has had a long, successful career. She proves that it can be done! More than anything, I do wish that I could meet Dorothy Parker and see what she was like. She'd probably rip me to shreds but it would be worth it, I think!
As I mentioned in my 2013 goal, I’m reading mostly women lit that focuses on women authors or complicated, strong female characters this year. Here is the list of my previous book reviews that I've done on this journey:

First: Madame Bovary
Second: Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress
Third: Patron Saint of Liars 
Fourth: Bird by Bird

Fifth: Frida Kahlo
Sixth: Women Seeing Women  

Seventh: Bridget Jones's Diary

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