And Now for Something Completely Different

“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.” ~Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker stampTaking a break from kindness posts for some shameless self-promotion. I am thrilled that a short essay I submitted to Dorothy Parker’s Ashes was accepted for publication in the latest issue. The theme of this issue is “libido.” And there’s quite an array of libidinous essays to be found should you be in the mood for things lascivious. Mine is entitled  “Parental Guidance.”  

If you’re not familiar with Dorothy Parker’s Ashes, it’s a delectable online journal of essays and poetry written by women. Each issue has a theme. I’d encourage any female writers reading this (and I know there are many) to check out DPA and consider writing something for one of their upcoming themes. Here’s a link to their Submit page that lists themes and deadlines. You can also subscribe for free.

If the journal’s name seems odd to you, it’s a delightful reminder of just who Dorothy Parker was and the circuitous journey her remains took following her death in 1967. Parker, you’ll recall, was the quick and acerbic wit who delivered such bon mots as “A hangover is the wrath of grapes” and “I don’t care what is written about me so long as it isn’t true.” She was well-known as a critic, poet, short-story writer, and screenwriter. Parker was also known for her caustic humor, her liberal leanings, and her participation in the famed Algonquin Round Table, along with Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, George S. Kaufman, Harold Ross, and several other of the top critics, writers, and humorists of the early-twentieth century. Later, she was among the many writers and actors blacklisted during the McCarthy era. When she died of a heart attack at age 73, she bequeathed her estate to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and upon King’s death, to the NAACP.

Parker was cremated, but her ashes remained unclaimed for several years. In 1973, the crematorium sent them to her attorney’s office. He, however, had retired, so the ashes were stashed in a filing cabinet. And there they remained for fifteen years. Finally, in 1988, the NAACP claimed Parker’s remains and placed them in a specially-designed memorial garden outside its Baltimore headquarters. A plaque commemorating Parker read:

“Here lie the ashes of Dorothy Parker (1893–1967) humorist, writer, critic. Defender of human and civil rights. For her epitaph she suggested, ‘Excuse my dust’. This memorial garden is dedicated to her noble spirit which celebrated the oneness of humankind and to the bonds of everlasting friendship between black and Jewish people. Dedicated by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. October 28, 1988.”

End of story? Nope. In early 2020, the NAACP moved its headquarters to temporary digs in downtown Baltimore, with the intention of later moving to permanent headquarters in Washington, D.C., where there would be no space for a memorial garden to shelter Ms. Parker’s remains.

Relatives of Parker emerged and called for her ashes to be moved to the family’s plot in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. This seemed an acceptable permanent solution to everyone and on August 22, 2020—53 years after her death—Parker’s exhumed urn was re-buried privately at Woodlawn.

And it was in 2020—in the midst of pandemic—that Dorothy Parker’s Ashes was conceived and born. It’s become a quirky journal that I look forward to reading every month, and think you might, too. Feel free to start with “Parental Guidance.”

“There’s a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words.” ~Dorothy Parker

25 thoughts on “And Now for Something Completely Different

  1. First of all, congratulations (and you shouldn’t feel any discomfort in self-promotion – we need to celebrate our wins and let others join in)! Second, thanks for the info about Dorothy Parker. I knew the name and am familiar with the quips, but I’m afraid that I don’t know much about the person. I am now anxious to learn more. Thanks also for the link to the publication. That looks like something I might be interested in… some of the themes are enticing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, some of the upcoming topics are quite enticing and would be both fun and challenging to craft essays for (molting?). Thanks for taking the time to comment, Janis. I know you’ve just started your spring blogging break. I hope it is everything you’re hoping for–with a few great surprises thrown in.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fun essay, Donna, congrats! Your sense of humor is (always) such a delight. And thanks for sharing the Dorothy Parker (goddess) website — a treasure trove.

    (Apologies for my slow response. I seem to be perpetually out of step, clock- and calendar-wise, and currently quite literally, as well — I’ve been nursing a broken second toe (true!) on my left foot for over a month:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kris. I hope you will consider some of the upcoming themes for Dorothy Parker’s Ashes. I know you’d come up with something amazing. They were lovely to work with, too. Sorry to hear about your toe—I know how painful that can be. Looking forward to warm weather when we can get together again. Hope all is well.

      Liked by 1 person

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