5 Devastating Dorothy Parker Quotes

Born 125 years ago today, Dorothy Parker was an author prized for her ability to devastate anyone in a few carefully chosen words. To celebrate the occasion in true Parker style, here are a few of our favourite acerbic asides from literature’s master of the putdown.

1) On her early years at Vogue

When asked by an interviewer about her years at Vogue, Parker issued an evaluation of the magazine that many media workers today might find familiar. “Now the editors are what they should be: all divorcees, and chic, a collection of Ilka Chases; the models are out of the mind of a Bram Stoker, and as for the caption writers — my old job — they’re recommending mink covers at $75 apiece for the wooden ends of golf clubs ’ — for the friend who has everything… Civilization is coming to an end, you understand.”

2) On male vanity

In “Men I’m Not Married To” (1922), Parker held forth about the men she would refuse to marry. A gentleman named “Mortimer” earned himself an especially cutting aside on his pretenciousness: “Mortimer had his photograph taken in his dress suit.”

3) On the predicament of being a modern woman

Parker has womankind covered in her 1926 poem “Observation: “If I don’t drive around the park,/I’m pretty sure to make my mark, If I’m in bed each night by ten,/I may get back my looks again,/If I abstain from fun and such,/I’ll probably amount to much,/But I shall stay the way I am,/Because I do not give a damn.”

4) On New Yorkers

In Parker’s 1925 short story “A Certain Lady,” she neatly skewered all residents of New York city: “Shortly — oh, anywhere from seven to ten minutes — after she has met you, Mrs. Legion is supplying you with all the ground floor information as to why she lives on Riverside Drive, instead of Park Avenue… There is all the sun they get, and that big kitchen, and the superintendent is so obliging, and just look how convenient the busses are.”

5) On male swagger

Parker’s poems “Songs of a Markedly Personal Nature” were published in The New Yorker in 1926, and contain this particularly brutal passage on the bravado of the male sex: “Oh, is it, then, Utopian/To hope that I may meet a man/Who’ll not relate, in accents suave/The tales of girls he used to have?”

Did we miss your favourite blistering Parker retort? Join in the conversation on Twitter @WomensPrize.