03 March 2020

How many martinis is too many ?

In this "immortal quatrain," Dorothy Parker explained that her limit was two:
“I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I'm under the table,
After four I'm under my host.” 
Intrigued by the quote, I checked the Wikipedia biography of a woman whose name I have heard, but about whom I knew nothing.  She was a widely quoted author, especially in the 1920s, known for her wit.  A collection of her work "was released in the United States in 1944 under the title The Portable Dorothy Parker. Parker's is one of only three of the Portable series (the other two being William Shakespeare and The Bible) to remain continuously in print."  Here are some of her famous quotes:
“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”

“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

“What fresh hell is this?”

“Tell him I was too fucking busy-- or vice versa.”

“This wasn't just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.”

“I had been fed, in my youth, a lot of old wives' tales about the way men would instantly forsake a beautiful woman to flock around a brilliant one. It is but fair to say that, after getting out in the world, I had never seen this happen.”

“So, you're the man who can't spell 'fuck.'" (Dorothy Parker to Norman Mailer after publishers had convinced Mailer to replace the word with a euphemism, 'fug,' in "The Naked and the Dead.”) Addendum: Note this is possibly a misattribution, perhaps said by Tallulah Bankhead (hat tip to reader Michael Skeet).

“Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”

“The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires.”
For her epitaph, she suggested 'Excuse my dust.'  Ironically "her ashes remained unclaimed in various places, including her attorney Paul O'Dwyer's filing cabinet, for approximately 17 years."  I've requested The Portable Dorothy Parker from the library.

Reposted from 2012 to provide some levity in the midst of pandemic and political news.  I would add, however, that however witty her epigrammatic quotes are, the collected poetry is mostly morose, suitable primarily for an emo book club.

Addendum:  Here's a link for the Dorothy Parker Society.

Addendum:  As reported by NPR:
Dorothy Parker died in 1967 at the age of 73. She left no family and directed that her estate and any future royalties go to a man she had never met but admired, The Reverend Martin Luther King; and on his death, to the NAACP. 
She designated that her friend, the playwright Lillian Hellmann, be her literary executor. But Lillian Hellmann thought that Dr. King was a pompous stuffed shirt, and she didn't think much of the NAACP. 
Seemingly out of spite, [Hellmann] made it difficult for those who wanted to reprint Dorothy Parker's poems or turn her works into plays and movies. 
Marion Meade has written about the saga of Dorothy Parker and Lillian Hellmann in the April-May issue of Book Forum magazine. She joins us from our studios in New York... [continues at the link]


  1. Ah, my friend - you are in for a rare treat. In her prime, Parker had few equals. Her razor sharp wit and intelligence cut both ways - many ways, really - and not very much escaped her bluntly-honest critical eye.

  2. I've always appreciated her review of one of Katherine Hepburn's theatrical performances -- something to the effect of, "she ran the gamut of emotions from 'a' to 'b'."

  3. There's a pretty good movie with Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dorthy Parker - Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.

    1. DVD requested from the library. Thanks, Bub.

    2. thanks - requested at mine!


    3. my library catalog lists several multi-CD audiobooks of readings of her works.


  4. The irony about the martini poem (which I love and quote often) is that Ms Parker apparently detested gin. So her personal martini limit was probably zero.

    According to https://quoteinvestigator.com/2019/03/12/fug/, the attribution to Parker of the Norman Mailer quote is spurious. It is generally credited (if it was ever said at all) to Tallulah Bankhead.

    Still and all, thank you for reposting this. It is certainly needed.

  5. Her biography is fascinating as well. As incredibly witty and clever as she was, she was deeply unhappy most of the time, and drank ink in a suicide attempt.
    “If I didn't care for fun and such,
    I'd probably amount to much.
    But I shall stay the way I am,
    Because I do not give a damn.”
    ― Dorothy Parker, Enough Rope

  6. She was very witty and talented but also deeply troubled, and the company she kept didn't help. There's a story that Alexander Woollcott visited her in the hospital when she was recovering from one of many suicide attempts and said, "Darling, you must stop this, you're going to hurt yourself."
    Interestingly the line "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force” has been attributed to her but has never been found in any of her writings. I have no trouble believing she said it, though.

  7. i just read https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/55670 "Men I'm Not Married To" by Dorothy Parker and "Women I'm Not Married To" by Franklin P. Adams. sharp tongued, both are, but some of the humor is from the 1920s and seemed to lose the desired impact for today?


  8. Dorothy Parker's dating stories are wonderfully sharp and funny. My favorite is Just a Little One. There's a great reading of it by Dana Ivey on Selected Shorts: https://store.symphonyspace.org/products/just-a-little-one-by-dorothy-parker

  9. Razors pain you;
    Rivers are damp;
    Acids stain you;
    And drugs cause cramp.
    Guns aren't lawful;
    Nooses give;
    Gas smells awful;
    You might as well live.

  10. DP has her own web page: https://dorothyparker.com/ Dorothy Parker Society - Official Dorothy Parker Site Since 1998



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