Not Much Fun: The Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker

by Stuart Y. Silverstein

Scribner, July, 2001.
Trade Paperback, 256 pages.
ISBN: 0743211480

Not Much Fun: The Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker by Stuart Y. Silverstein Not Much Fun is actually a great deal of fun to read, if you happen to enjoy humor and wit. Mr. Silverstein divides the book into three parts: an introduction that is largely biographical, footnotes which are mostly anecdotal and the poems, which are always enjoyable. Skipping any one of these parts will leave the reader with only two-thirds of the enjoyment that this book gives on every page. The reader should be advised, however, not to read the book on a plane or in a hotel lobby because shaking with silent laughter and occasionally wiping away tears of mirth will only result in embarrassment and the puzzled stares of other travelers. The best place to read Not Much Fun while on vacation might be at the beach where other people are much more involved with their own diversions to notice giggles and guffaws.

Dorothy Parker will always be remembered most for her hilarious yet lethal one-liners which have from time to time entered the general language. The supposed interchange between Dorothy Parker and Clare Boothe Luce when both approached the same door is probably not at all true. It has been given a sort of immortality however, especially by women who love to tease each other with "age before beauty" which is soon followed with the verbal volley of "and pearls before swine." Dorothy Parker is also given credit for having said "men don't make passes at girl's who wear glasses" and "a girl's best friend is her mutter." It is little anecdotes like these that make the footnotes a joyous romp through one liners that can inflict unremitting laughter.

One might ask why the Mr. Silverstein chose the title, Not Much Fun, for a book that is so humorous. The answer can be found in one of the footnotes which recounts Dorothy Parker's answer to a bartender's stock question of "What are you having?" Her quick reply was, "Not much fun!" Sadly, for her, Dorothy Parker's life was full of success in some areas, but failure in many others. She always wanted to write like Edna St. Vincent Millay, but since she had to obtain her entire income from writing, she had little time to pursue the elegant constructions of Ms. Millay. Heavy drinking was a deeply ingrained habit that took its toll through the years, and unhappy romantic liaisons added to her personal unhappiness. Nevertheless, out of her pain and disappointments came a sardonic wit that provided much laughter for her readers. After all, people love most those who cause us to laugh. Not Much Fun is a great deal of fun for those who enjoy a well-written phrase and devastating wit. Mr. Silverstein is an entertaining collector and biographer who is himself a master of the English language at its best.

--Sarah Reaves White

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This review was published in the August, 2001 of The Internet Writing Journal.

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