Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?
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Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?

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4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  1,762 ratings  ·  140 reviews
She was known for outrageous one-liners, her ruthless theater criticism, her clever verses and bittersweet stories, but there was another side to Dorothy Parker - a private life set on a course of destruction. She suffered through two divorces, a string of painful affairs, a lifelong problem with alcohol, and several suicide attempts.

In this lively, absorbing biography, M...more
Paperback, 460 pages
Published March 3rd 1989 by Penguin Books (first published 1987)
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Batgrl (No, GR I Don't Trust You With My Paperwhite Data)
This book reminds me of several others I've read about famous women - they're really good with the history, the details, the research, and well written - but because of the detail you know that this woman was NOT an easy person to really know, to befriend, or to be in the same room with. It's not just that Parker's depressions are sad - it's also that she could be a mean drunk, and loved to talk behind people's backs, even if those people were her friends. There's no denying that she could be se...more
Ellen
I was rather disappointed in this biography of the fabulous Dorothy Parker, frankly. Toward the last third of the book I felt that I was forcing myself to continue. And the most disappointing thing about this book is that the author failed to include a bibliography of the books and magazines she'd used in her research. I always go through bibliographies and write down the books that sound interesting, so this wasn't a pleasant discovery.

Meade's style is rather jumpy, and I found a lot of repetit...more
Zen Cho
This was OK, I guess. It was quite interesting finding out what sort of person Dorothy Parker was and where she was from, and it was well-written enough. But the writer's magaziney style grated sometimes. And a lot of the time she just seemed to be making stuff up! I don't think the main character of Big Blonde is based on Parker -- I mean, yes, I'm sure Parker experienced some of what she put into the story, but I'm suspicious of attempts to turn people's fiction into sekrit biographies of them...more
Todd Jenkins
Feb 14, 2008 Todd Jenkins rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: sharp-tongued women everywhere
I know so many women today who would feel right at home with Dorothy Parker but have probably never heard of her. This book is a respectable (perhaps too much so) biography of one of America's greatest women of letters. Deeply flawed in many ways, from her alcoholism to her choices in men, Parker masked it all with a rapier wit that redefined a woman's role in literature. Alternately hilarious and nasty, she presented a new feminine face that had rarely been seen in society prior to her emergenc...more
Siria
A somewhat anecdotal, pedestrian account of what was undoubtedly a fascinating life. I did learn quite a bit about Parker—previously I'd known little more than that she'd coined the phrase 'Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses'—such as the fact that she had a fractious relationship with Hemingway, or that she willed all her estate to the NAACP. All of that made me think that she deserved a much more intelligent biographer—Meade was far too given to hamfisted armchair psychologising.
Sarah
I didn't even quite make it all the way through this one, because Meade irritated me so much. She relied far too much on hearsay and opinion, and could definitely have spent a lot more time doing some fact checking. On top of that, her style was pedantic and generally unimpressive.
Misty
an excellent biography. truth be told, her life is a better read, than her work. i saw this before the movie.....vicious circle yadayada, while jennifer jason leigh was great, the movie doesn't come close to dotties life story. if you like biographies, and old new york, read it!
Tracey
Not the best biography for such an enigmatic woman. In the hands of a more experienced writer, it might have been different.
Marieke
4.5 stars, really...It's just not quite up there with Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay for me. I feel somewhat badly saying that, because Meade mentions in her biography of Dorothy Parker that Mrs. Parker (as Dorothy liked to be known) often struggled with feeling second to Edna Millay.

With her great pacing and choice of anecdotes, Marion Meade does an excellent job revealing just what a complex person Mrs. Parker was--an alcoholic who had abominable self-care skills and a rat...more
Tony
45. Meade, Marion. DOROTHY PARKER: WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS? (1988). ***. This is a fleshy, anecdotal biography of Dorothy Parker that never really grabbed my attention. Although professionally written, the writing itself was pedestrian and brought no spark of life to the subject. Parker was a well known wit and member-in-good-standing of the Round Table in the Algonquin Hotel. Her companions there were also well-known and provided the basis for most of the Eastern literary establishment. She sta...more
Tracey
I didn't know much about Dorothy Parker or the Algonquin Round Table when I saw the movie "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle." I knew a few snatches of her verse, knew she was renowned as a wit, and knew that the Round Table was famous for erudition and repartee. Once I saw the movie, I began to read her work and explore the rest of the group.

I ran across this biography (still fairly new at the time, and I believe Meade may have been an advisor to the movie). Having read other books about DP a...more
Nicky
I learned lots of interesting things. She left her estate to Martin Luther King, Jr., for instance. She also fell in love a lot and was kind of a See You Next Tuesday. But I dig that about her. I especially enjoyed her platonic romance with Mr. Benchley. Previously, everything I knew about her was culled from The Portable her and that horrible Jennifer Jason Leigh movie. So it’s nice to discover the real facts of the case. But as far as this book goes, I didn’t think it was particularly compelli...more
Sharmili
I was very excited about starting this book and enjoyed learning more about Dorothy Parker. However, it was a fight to get through this book and I ended up not finishing before my book club was meeting to discuss it. And I wasn't the only one. The girl who chose it apologized for doing so - it had been recommended to her. It was definitely informative and Dorothy Parker herself is interesting. However, I've also purchased a biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine also written by Marion Meade, and I'm...more
Amanda Lee
After doing a short essay on Ms. Parker and her works, I was really excited to learn more about her. Marion Meade's biography does give a pretty thorough look into her life, but too often I found the writing a bit bland and rambling. With such a bold title, and the subject being a woman with such vitriolic wit, I expected a little bit more... excitement. I could only bring myself to skim the last two-hundred pages. Overall, though, a pretty good biography, and a good starting point for researchi...more
Stacey Ballmes
I'm a Dorothy Parker fan. I admit that. I don't know that Ms. Meade is. She seems to be very judgmental about Mrs. Parker. I loved Ms. Meade's "Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin," and so was excited to read this but the tone was one of almost sneering at Mrs. Parker.
Carlos Alonso-Niemeyer
Garisson Keillor recommended Dorothy Parker's work. I got this book thinking it was a Parker book. I was bored and I did not like it.
Kirsten
One of my favorite curmudgeons - the title refers to her response every time the phone or doorbell rang, must confess I know that feeling!
Lisa
Just wasn't engaged but the author. Read 1/4 and then sent it back to the library.
Lynette
I felt it was decidedly dry. For such a character, it was dull.
Jan
JJ Murphy said this book inspired her in writing her delightful Murder Your Darlings (Algonquin Round Table mysteries) so I thought I should read it to have a better understanding of Dorothy Parker. I read it in fits and spurts but after reading her peer Ring Lardner's Big Town I got serious about finishing Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell is This? by Marion Meade. Dorothy lived a contrary life - a drinker who started Prohibition as a tee-totaler and ended life as a Scotch fueled drunk; a woman w...more
Neil Pierson
Recently... well, less than 30 years ago... someone told me I was witty. In my case, this is almost always followed by, "Now, shut up." In fact I thought it was part of the compliment. But I guess it's more of a suffix.

Anyway, when the subject is wit, the name that comes to mind is Dorothy Parker. She was a writer of short stories, light verse, plays, movies, book reviews, and play reviews. But today, she's best known for her witty and often critical observations about life in the 1920s and 1930...more
Brittany
I have got to cut back on the memoirs of depressive, suicidal, female authors with writer's block.

In my defense, that's not really what I expected from Dorothy Parker's biography. Before reading this, I had read some of her poetry and short fiction, and one quote from her book reviews (about Winnie the Pooh). I also knew she had a reputation for wonderful zingers. Based on that, and the inviting title of this book, I expected something maybe a little light, a little funny, maybe poignant.

It see...more
Aileen
I dived into this book, but lingered for a bit towards the end. By use of the word "lingering", I am confessing that I found myself more inclined to set it aside for a quick foray into the new arrival at the local grocery store of month old OK magazines. That's my caveat, folks. My caution too. I can put aside a good book to read stale smut.

But if you are still interested in my opinion on this particular book, I'll share it: it's good. Interesting. Cerebrally, I know that I am glad to know more...more
Linda
Freshman year at college 1965 – Modern Dance 101. One of the first assignments was to interpret a poem of choice. The interpretation that still stands out in my memory is one girl’s take on the one-liner “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.” And thus my introduction to one Dorothy Parker. Over the years I would hear of or read some witticism attributed to her but it wasn’t until recently that I actively sought out her work, and in doing so was delighted to find the biography Doroth...more
Courtney
I note at the top of this section that it doesn't just say "My review," it says, "My review/ What I learned from this book." What I learned from this very well-written and thorough book is that my idea of Dorothy Parker was completely wrong. I always pictured her as sort of a brassy dame or ballsy broad. What I learned from this book is that she was a broken, completely dysfuntional, lazy, mean-spirited alcoholic with a completely unwarranted sense of entitlement. Who loved dogs. On the one hand...more
Laura B
Meade treats all of Parker's fiction and verse as if it was verified autobiography and paraphrases her writing incredibly obnoxiously. A couple prime examples: "Given the inadequacy of what was available to an aspiring suicide, Dorothy figured she might as well go on living." and "Men were seldom capable of experiencing sexual attraction for a woman who wore glasses." [See Parker's poem Resume and "Men seldom make passes/At girls who wear glasses."]

Because Meade is constantly taking Parker's lin...more
Victoria
Oh, my. While we think of the Algonquin Round Table and its witty, literate crowd in a glittering, fantasy Gatsby light, this book is a cold dose of reality. While there was wit, these legendary personalities floated on a river of booze. And drowned. Dorothy worked hard on her writing, in spurts, but overall was a model of financial and interpersonal irresponsibility. This detailed biography is an enormous accomplishment, inasmuch as she left no personal papers, unless (which appears more than a...more
rebecca
Nov 20, 2009 rebecca added it
Shelves: biography
It's rather embarrassing how little I know about Parker. For years I've thought that Robinson was an obedient child she took to soirees and dinner parties who happily slept in her lap and played beneath her chair in complete contentment. Imagine my surprise upon examining the cover of the book and discovering it's a photo of Dorothy and Robinson. Dorothy and Robinson, her dachshund.

Kristey
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Cloud
This was just okay, to me.
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Marion Meade is an American biographer and novelist, whose subjects stretch from 12th century French royalty to 20th century stand-up comedians. She is best known for her portraits of literary figures and iconic filmmakers.

Her new book, Lonelyhearts: The Screwball World of Nathanael West and Eileen McKenney, is a joint biography of a husband and wife whose lives provide a vivid picture of the art...more
More about Marion Meade...
Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Biography Stealing Heaven Selected Readings from the Portable Dorothy Parker The Unruly Life of Woody Allen: A Biography

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“They say of me, and so they should, It’s doubtful if I come to good.” 0 likes
“But now I know the things I know, And do the things I do; And if you do not like me so, To hell, my love, with you!” 0 likes
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