Dorothy Parker and I have crossed paths before. Most recently I read a bit about her life in Marion Meade's Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin, which I thoroughly enjoyed though it was really more of a broad overview of the (literary) Twenties and of several of the more colorful women writers who were working during that period. It was a sweeping sort of book and anecdotal in form--enough to give me a taste of what Dorothy Parker was like but curious to know more (though I've yet to get around to properly reading about her). Several years previously I read a couple of her short stories, The Lovely Leave and The Standard of Living, so I was pleased to see her inclusion in The Persephone Book of Short Stories.
I like Dorothy Parker a lot. I've always wanted to be a sparkling conversationalist, you know the sort of person who thinks fast on their feet and can hold her own in any discussion, but as someone who is naturally shy--especially in large groups and nearly every social situation--I tend to think of witty replies to conversations three days later when everyone else has forgotten there was even a discussion. Now Dorothy Parker is a woman who could hold her own amongst men and women and was known for her wit and satirical eye. I'm not sure how happy she was in life or whether it turned out the way she hoped and dreamed (she had a failed marriage and never completed her novel), but she made a name for herself and is remembered, read and admired to this day.
Maybe it's just a case of nerves. In Dorothy Parker's story Here We Are, published in 1931, a newlywed couple sets off for their honeymoon. Married just over two hours they board a train and the reader is privy to their conversation and one wonders just where their newlywedded bliss has disappeared to so suddenly.
"Goodness, I don't see how people do it every day" the bride says, "well, it's sort of such a big thing to do, it makes you feel queer."
And as the train races towards New York City, so too does her mind race on to their destination and what's going to happen there.
"And how does anybody know what's going to happen next?"
And then worry sets in and expectations and thoughts of what happens if things don't go well. And then the bickering starts and little jealousies float to the surface and accusations of perceived slights and mostly simple fears sets the pair on edge.
"We used to squabble a lot when we were together and then engaged and everything, but I thought everything would be so different as soon as you were married. And now I feel so sort of strange and everything. I feel so sort of alone."
But she's not alone and her husband tries to set her mind at ease even as he reminds her they're married but not yet quite married if you know what I mean, which no doubt would make any blushing bride blush even more, especially ca. 1930. So it's only natural (well, maybe not entirely natural but at least explainable) that a throwaway comment about the bridesmaid or the bride's sister or worse the bride's hat will set her off in a flurry of accusations of her new husband harboring secret desires for one, and dislike for the latter two.
The story takes place entirely on the train in a private compartment and it leaves you wondering just what takes place when the couple arrives (hoping that the pair does not go to the theater or write letters as each threatens to do). "Here We Are" is pure Dorothy Parker at her witty best. The story's told very tongue-in-cheek with rapid fire dialogue that moves along at a swift pace to a probably happy conclusion.
Because surely it's all just a case of nerves!
I hope to come across more of Dorothy Parker's work soon. This is a reminder of just how good she is.
Next week one of Persephone's most popular (and understandably so) authors, Dorothy Whipple.