“It’s easier to write about those you hate—just as it’s easier to criticize a bad play or a bad book.” ~ Dorothy Parker, from “The Art of Fiction No. 13”

No time for regular post, but found this wonderful interview from 1956 with Dorothy Parker (Oh, I would have loved to have a conversation with this woman) in The Paris Review (click on link for full interview). Enjoy:

INTERVIEWER (Marion Capron)

What was it about the twenties that inspired people like yourself and Broun?


Gertrude Stein did us the most harm when she said, “You’re all a lost generation.” That got around to certain people and we all said, Whee! We’re lost. Perhaps it suddenly brought to us the sense of change. Or irresponsibility. But don’t forget that, though the people in the twenties seemed like flops, they weren’t. Fitzgerald, the rest of them, reckless as they were, drinkers as they were, they worked damn hard and all the time.


Did the “lost generation” attitude you speak of have a detrimental effect on your own work?


Silly of me to blame it on dates, but so it happened to be. Dammit, it was the twenties and we had to be smarty. I wanted to be cute. That’s the terrible thing. I should have had more sense.


And during this time you were writing poems?


My verses. I cannot say poems. Like everybody was then, I was following in the exquisite footsteps of Miss Millay, unhappily in my own horrible sneakers. My verses are no damn good. Let’s face it, honey, my verse is terribly dated—as anything once fashionable is dreadful now. I gave it up, knowing it wasn’t getting any better, but nobody seemed to notice my magnificent gesture.


Do you think your verse writing has been of any benefit to your prose?


Franklin P. Adams once gave me a book of French verse forms and told me to copy their design, that by copying them I would get precision in prose. The men you imitate in verse influence your prose, and what I got out of it was precision, all I realize I’ve ever had in prose writing.


How did you get started in writing?


I fell into writing, I suppose, being one of those awful children who wrote verses. I went to a convent in New York—the Blessed Sacrament. Convents do the same things progressive schools do, only they don’t know it. They don’t teach you how to read; you have to find out for yourself. At my convent we did have a textbook, one that devoted a page and a half to Adelaide Ann Proctor; but we couldn’t read Dickens; he was vulgar, you know. But I read him and Thackeray, and I’m the one woman you’ll ever know who’s read every word of Charles Reade, the author of The Cloister and the Hearth. But as for helping me in the outside world, the convent taught me only that if you spit on a pencil eraser it will erase ink. And I remember the smell of oilcloth, the smell of nuns’ garb. I was fired from there, finally, for a lot of things, among them my insistence that the Immaculate Conception was spontaneous combustion.


Have you ever drawn from those years for story material?


All those writers who write about their childhood! Gentle God, if I wrote about mine you wouldn’t sit in the same room with me.


2 thoughts on ““It’s easier to write about those you hate—just as it’s easier to criticize a bad play or a bad book.” ~ Dorothy Parker, from “The Art of Fiction No. 13”

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