Monday, June 04, 2007

"Constant Reader"

In the latter months of 1927, "Constant Reader" started a series of book reviews in The New Yorker called "Reading and Writing." True to the title they were much more than just simple reviews. In this article from the distressingly-long November 19, 1927 issue (the issues got fatter around Christmas, mainly due to increased advertising), "Constant Reader" spends most of her word count telling us about her paper-cutter:
There was a time when that paper-cutter and I were like sisters. Whever I went, there was the paper-cutter. I would sit down in a comfortable chair, and there it was; I would step out of bed on a crisp Winter morning, and there it was; I would reach into the dim depths of a bureau drawer, and there it was, again. I grew to know it so well that I had my own secret pet-name for it. I used to call it "that lousy thing."
Yes, "Constant Reader" was actually Dorothy Parker, and it's a delight to have her finally join the magazine full time. As anxious as I am for The New Yorker to finally get somewhat SERIOUS -- beyond Morris Markey's brilliant news columns and the ongoing expose of Broadway graft -- at least Dorothy Parker's jokes are DIFFERENT. She had a unique style that I won't try to analyze until I've finally read that huge collection of her work that I have sitting in my bookshelf.


Eric Little said...

Not quite on subject, but--

"Constant Reader" always reminds me of the 1943 Red Skelton comedy, "Whistling in Brooklyn," the third in a series about a radio detective, played by Skelton, called "the Fox," who gets involved in solving real-life crimes.

"Constant Reader" is the pseudonym for a criminal who is trying to prove the incompetence of the NYPD. The twist is that the police think the Fox is Constant Reader.

The movie is fun for me because a) it has one of the few appearances of Jean Rogers, who played Dale Arden in the first two Universal Flash Gordon serials, in any other movie. Very sexy contralto voice. B) The pursuit of the Fox leads to Ebbets Field, where Red pitches against the real Brooklyn Dodgers, including Leo Durocher (who had his own Hollywood connection in that he married Laraine Day). C) The script was by Nat Perrin, who wrote "The Big Store" and was later involved in the Addams Family tv series.

Oh, and hooray for Dorothy Parker!

Adam Thornton said...

The only Red Skelton movie I've seen (and own) is "Watch the Birdie," where he repeatedly humiliates Ann Miller and never once says "I doo'd it!" The first was par for the course with poor Ms. Miller. The latter was a blessing.

I enjoy the cruelty in Skelton's radio routines, but he comes across as an A+ jerk.

Mantelli said...

I don't always agree with her (I happen to LIKE the Winnie-the-Pooh books, for instance), but she's fun!

Eric Little said...

I have one book by Dorothy Parker--in the lowest shelf of that bookcase behind me--"The Portable Dorothy Parker," the revised and enlarged edition published in 1973, which still has in it as a bookmark an inspection card from the factory I used to work in when the book came out.

And for a paperback that is over 30 years old, it is in wonderful shape: the binding strong, the pages white, all 640 of them, and costing only $2.95. That's value.

One of the additions to the 1944 "Portable D. P." is "Constant Reader," the published collection of her "New Yorker" book reviews. Just dipping in and glancing over her reviews of works I'm fairly familiar with, she is, I think, precisely right, and also unforgettably right.

And, best of all, hilariously right.

Adam Thornton said...

It's "The Portable Dorothy Parker" that I have as well, though I haven't read it yet (and it's hardly portable!)

I did a brief skim of the selected "Constant Reader" articles that they printed in there. At first glance it looks like they've severely edited the original work; the "Constant Reader" articles that I have been reading are quite long (sometimes a bit too long).

And yes, in the first article she wrote as "Constant Reader," she took multiple digs at Winnie the Pooh under the guise of reviewing a totally different work. It must have really bugged her!

Hilda said...

I am slowly reading the 2006 edition of "The Portable Dorothy Parker" (the cover alone is wonderful)and am thoroughly enjoying it! I love the the humor in her writing and how she evokes time and place so wonderfully, yet the points are still relevant today.

In fact I was just reading it last night, what a pleasure to see her mentioned today!

Adam Thornton said...

The cover does catch the eye, doesn't it! I ALMOST picked it up to read it, but settled on "Moby Dick" instead. Next time...