Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, July 5, 2010

"A Telephone Call" by Dorothy Parker

"A Telephone Call"  by Dorothy Parker (1930, 5 pages)

Dorothy Parker (1893 to 1967, New Jersey, USA) is someone whose work I have wanted to sample for a while.    Parker achieved a lot in her life.    She was on the original board of directors of the New Yorker magazine upon its founding in 1925, she was a theater editor for Vanity Fair magazine, an editorial assistant on Vogue , wrote book reviews for Esquire Magazine and published over 300 short stories, articles, and poems in a wide range of American publications.   She also wrote screen plays for Hollywood and received two academy award nominations for best script, one for A Star is Born in 1937 and one for The Little Foxes in 1941.   Parker became an advocate for various organizations seeking social justice and as a result of this was blacklisted as a communist and found it difficult to work in Hollywood after that.    Parker had a tumultuous drama filled alcohol fueled personal life.    

I have wanted to read one of her short stories ever since I began reading short stories a few months ago.   I just found an example of her work on line for the first time yesterday.    Under the terms of American Copyright law (as I understand it) Parker's work should be protected until 2037 so I am assuming either the web page where I read this story got permission to reprint it or it slipped under the radar but that does explain why it is very hard to find any of her work online.    Of course not all countries have bound themselves  by these laws so there could be other reasons why this story is online.

"A Telephone Call" (1930, 5 pages) is the interior monologue of a woman waiting for a man she is infatuated with to call her as he had promised he would.     This story does a good job at capturing the anxiety of someone in this situation and conveying the emotions that can have sway during such a period.     I am glad I read this story to satisfy my curiosity but she is far inferior in talent to Mansfield, O'Conner, Chopin, and of course Woolf (based on my small sample of her work).    Mansfield and Woolf did not have to please editors and the public whereas Parker depended on the popularity of her work to make her living (she did very well at her peak).     Here is a sample of her style:

"I'll call you at five, darling." "Good-by, darling.,' He was busy, and he was in a hurry, and there were people around him, but he called me "darling" twice. That's mine, that's mine. I have that, even if I never see him again. Oh, but that's so little. That isn't enough. Nothing's enough, if I never see him again. Please let me see him again, God. Please, I want him so much. I want him so much. I'll be good, God. I will try to be better, I will, If you will let me see him again. If You will let him telephone me. Oh, let him telephone me now.
The story goes on for five pages just like this.    "A Telephone Call" is not high art and was not meant to be.   It was written to be in a magazine that catered to a sense of laughing at the fate of the unfortunate  between ads  for whiskey, cigarettes and expensive clothes and to be easy to read and follow for purchasers of the magazine.      Parker was a very big contributor to the New Yorker  and was known personally for her acerbic wit and we can see that in this story.     I am glad I got to sample her work.  

Final thoughts-you can read it for free in less than 5 minutes so I am glad I satisfied my curiosity and I laughed a bit-her work has some historical import in the development of the short story  as she did come to epitomize  a New Yorker style writer during the period the New Yorker came to be a great place to publish a short story.

you can read it online here

Mel u


Emidy @ Une Parole said...

Oh, interesting! The plot of this short story is so simple, but it sounds like a joy to read.

ds said...

Yes, Parker is very easy reading, especially when set next to Mansfield and Woolf. Her wit is less refined, but no less sharp (she's "verse," they are poetry).I went through a huge Dorothy Parker phase in high school--to the point where my "Portable" collection of her work fell to pieces. I suspect that the Archives of The New Yorker's website might have some of her stuff available online...
As always, a dead-on review Mel. Thanks.

Isaac7985 said...

This is a great short story. It's actually the first one included in the book "Points of View" that I reviewed a few days ago. It's writers like her that make it a dream of mine to be published in "The New Yorker" someday. Excellent choice.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I hope you read something else by Parker at some point. I'm a big fan and though some of her shortest pieces can feel trite, she wrote quite a few wonderful short stories. Give her another chance!

Journey said...

I really like Dorothy Parker - when I'm in the right mood for her. (And a cigarette in one hand and whiskey in the other probably helps to get there... ;-) )

And I really find her stories very verbal. I have some compiled in an audio book which I really like and when reading other stories of her I really do tend to read them aloud. They need voices, I think.