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Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  2,932 ratings  ·  206 reviews
She was known for her outrageous one-liners, her ruthless theater criticism, her clever verses and bittersweet stories. But there was another side of Dorothy Parker: a private life set on a course of destruction. This lively biography illuminates both sides of Parker.
Audiobook, 12 pages
Published June 1st 2012 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 1987)
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Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This? by Marion Meade is a biography of Dorothy Parker (1893 – 1967). She is known for her sharp, caustic, biting wit. She wrote poems, short stories, critique and script for movies and plays. She was one of the founding members of the Algonquin Round Table. She was there alongside Harold Ross when the New Yorker saw day. During the McCarthy era her left-wing political views led to her being "blacklisted" in Hollywood. She drank excessively, overdosed on barbit ...more
Batgrl (Book Data Kept Elsewhere)
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
Jun 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
What an interesting person Dorothy Parker was. Incredibly smart with a sharp wit that made her a success with any group she was with. She wrote poetry, short stories, and screenplays, but she was best known as a literary and stage critic for magazines and newspapers in New York. She was a founding member of the famous Algonquin Round Table. I imagine that she would be one of those people, having met, you would never forget, whether for good or bad. For some reason I group Dorothy Parker with Sy ...more
Zen Cho
Jun 09, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: real-people
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 22, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, nonfiction
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.
I've read an article or two that defines Dorothy Parker ("Dottie" to her friends) as a "Literary Titan." Within Parker's generation of writers, she is contemporary with Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Her own regret during her life was that she never completed a novel. However, she wrote and wrote and wrote between the 1920s and 1960s. She published volumes of poetry, collections of short fiction, and piles of articles and reviews for magazines and papers. It is ever so helpful to have ...more
Feb 22, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, unfinished
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.
Aug 25, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not the best biography for such an enigmatic woman. In the hands of a more experienced writer, it might have been different.
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
A batshit genius like Dorothy Parker deserves a more lively and penetrating biography.
Mar 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographical
I was not familiar with Dorothy Parker until I saw the film, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle many years ago (1995?). Her character, as portrayed by Jennifer Jason Leigh, intrigued me. The little poems that Leigh read throughout the film were clever, witty and (given my woeful marital situation at the time) rather poignant. I was intrigued, not only by Parker, but by the whole Bohemian (of sorts) scene that was the Algonquin Round Table.

This was, of course, before the internet became much of a
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
Jan 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
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!
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I felt it was decidedly dry. For such a character, it was dull.
Apr 20, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
She was a woman who didn’t mince words so neither will I, this biography was boring as fuck.
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
May 05, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: city-girls, ww, true-story
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
Laura B
Mar 26, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
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
Mar 19, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 08, 2011 rated it did not like it
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.
May 18, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Just wasn't engaged but the author. Read 1/4 and then sent it back to the library.
Oct 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If one is not familiar with the cast of characters of the era that include, writers of all ilks, columnist, composers, poets, playwrights, screen writers, journalists and movie moguls, it may get a little tedious at times, but the background on the Algonquin Round Table and its members were well worth the read in addition to the gem that was Dorothy Parker. She was a woman who bucked norms and was so far ahead of time -- endearing and infuriating at the same time but always brilliant.
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Iconic American writer ....that has fallen between the cracks.
Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This (M. Meade)

Pour yourself a glass of red wine, or as
Dorothy called it 'The Red Badge of Courage'
and spend hours with this feisty lady!

This is great biography!

3.5 stars.

I am so out of practice with writing Goodreads reviews...Dorothy Parker would likely think that the following is shit (which, incidentally, was her favourite word).

Marion Meade is very clearly devoted to her subject and she has done a tremendous amount of research on Dorothy Parker's life; however, some of the details included in the book felt superfluous. Basically, the only graceless thing I can think of to say at this very moment is that this book was depressing as fuck. It, like, l
Kate Mcphail
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sad life
A good biography
Neil Pierson
Jun 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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

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