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Witticist and Wisecracker Dorothy Parker: In Her Own Words

June 7th marks the 50th anniversary of American satirist Dorothy Parker’s death. We pull some of our favorite quotes from the acerbic writer to celebrate her extraordinary influence on early 20th century American pop lit.

Dorothy Parker had a way of with words — like pouring gasoline on them and lighting them on fire while donning a Cheshire cat grin. As one of the famous founders of the Algonquin Round Table, a literary group of writers, critics and actors in New York City, Parker fearlessly spoke her mind through her essays, short stories and poetry, most notably in The New Yorker, Vogue and McCall’s. Her acerbic wit made her one of the most celebrated writers of American pop literature of the 1920s and 30s, but coupled with her progressive politics and screenwriting in Hollywood, she ended up getting banished onto the Hollywood blacklist.

Still, Parker forged on with her writing career, albeit with less ease — her love life was a roller coaster, her drinking problems not much better — until she died of a heart attack on June 7, 1967. Parker had once said: “There’s a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words.”

Parker’s words below are a testament she had a talent for both.

“Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye.”

“The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.”

“Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.”

“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”

“Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of ‘The Elements of Style.’ The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

“I hate writing, I love having written.”

“I’d like to have money. And I’d like to be a good writer. These two can come together, and I hope they will, but if that’s too adorable, I’d rather have money.”

“That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can’t say ‘No’ in any of them.”

“I don’t know much about being a millionaire, but I’ll bet I’d be darling at it.”

“This wasn’t just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.”

“Four be the things I’d have been better without: love, curiosity, freckles and doubt.”

“Of course I talk to myself. I like a good speaker, and I appreciate an intelligent audience.”