Thursday, August 09, 2007

Rotarians of Literature

In the February 11, 1928 edition of The New Yorker, Dorothy Parker gives a priceless description of what she calls "Literary Rotarians." I'm not sure exactly who she's making fun of, but I assume they're up-and-coming authors who are always glad-handing around, desperate for a sale or for a valuable contact. Or maybe they're just "Constant Readers," like herself.
They are all bright and brisk and determinedly young. They skitter from place to place with a nervous quickness that suggests the movements of those little leggy things that you see on the surface of ponds, on hot Summer days. The tips of their noses are ever delicately a-quiver for the scent of news, and their shining eyes are puckered a bit, with the strain of constant peering. Their words are quicker than the ear, and spoken always in syncopation, from their habitually frantic haste to get out the news that the Doran people have tied up with the Doubleday, Page outfit, or that McCall's Magazine has got a new high-pressure editor. Some of them are women, some of them are men. This would indicate that there will probably always be more of them.
I love Dorothy Parker's flippant, oddball style, even when she's describing something I couldn't care less about. "Those little leggy things" sounds SO much better than "water strider."

Update: She's talking about "literary folk," who go to all sorts of literary functions and who consider themselves to be writers -- of novels or of newspaper columns -- but who never write anything that is remembered. Or who never write anything at all.


Eric Little said...

Now that is elegant prose with a purpose! Each word is chosen because it's the right one, not just to sound sophisticated. And look at the overall rhythm: short sentence, long sentence, long sentence, long sentence, short, short. Beautiful.

Adam Thornton said...

Someday I have to read that pocket Dorothy Parker book, jeez. It stares at me with that cute cover.