snopes.com  

Go Back   snopes.com > Urban Legends > Questionable Quotes

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 27 July 2009, 04:09 PM
snopes's Avatar
snopes snopes is offline
 
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 108,507
Reading Dorothy Parker slams bad novel

Comment: The following quote is attributed to Dorothy Parker:

"This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with
great force."

What's new about it to me is the claim that this refers to Atlas Shrugged.
If it were about Atlas, I'm pretty sure I would have heard it before
(there are some relatively famous slams of Atlas, e.g. by Whittaker
Chambers). So I suspect it's a modern misattribution, or rather
"misreference".

I've also seen claims that it refers to The Cardinal's Mistress by
Mussolini, which I find more plausible. But no one seems to know for
sure.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 27 July 2009, 04:20 PM
Nick Theodorakis Nick Theodorakis is offline
 
Join Date: 05 November 2005
Location: Fishers, IN
Posts: 6,539
Default

The wikiquote article on Dorothy Parker concurs, and gives the source as The Algonquin Wits (1968) edited by Robert E. Drennan.

Nick
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 28 July 2009, 04:00 AM
Bonnie's Avatar
Bonnie Bonnie is offline
 
Join Date: 01 January 1970
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Posts: 112
Chicken

Well, now I'm a little curious what source(s) Drennan relied on for that attribution to Parker.

For what it's worth (and that's not much), a slightly earlier sighting appeared in Larry Wolters's "Gag Bag" column for The Chicago Tribune (7 May 1967, Pg. G10), just a month before Parker's death. Here, Wolters (unsatisfyingly) mentions that this comment was "[f]rom a review by Dorothy Parker." He fails to provide more information about which work Parker was said to have referred to, the medium in which she was to have delivered the line (e.g., written review, casual conversation), or where he heard about the quip. (In fairness, I ought to point out that I couldn't find any pre-1967 appearance of this quip, with or without attribution to Parker.)

-- Bonnie
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 30 July 2009, 10:48 PM
RivkahChaya's Avatar
RivkahChaya RivkahChaya is offline
 
Join Date: 14 July 2006
Location: Indiana
Posts: 12,275
Default

The quote is from a Constant Reader review in The New Yorker, and refers to Benito Mussolini's The Cardinal's Mistress. The whole review is in the current edition of The Portable Dorothy Parker.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 30 July 2009, 11:57 PM
Bonnie's Avatar
Bonnie Bonnie is offline
 
Join Date: 01 January 1970
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Posts: 112
Reading

Thank you, RivkahChaya! This is very helpful. (Does The Portable Dorothy Parker happen to mention in which issue her review appeared? I'm not doubting it's in The New Yorker. I just think it would be interesting to nail down the specifics of the attribution.)

-- Bonnie
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 31 July 2009, 12:18 AM
snopes's Avatar
snopes snopes is offline
 
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 108,507
Reading

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bonnie View Post
Thank you, RivkahChaya! This is very helpful. (Does The Portable Dorothy Parker happen to mention in which issue her review appeared? I'm not doubting it's in The New Yorker. I just think it would be interesting to nail down the specifics of the attribution.)
It's the 15 September 1928 issue, but I don't see any mention of "this is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly" in the review. Parker concludes with:

"Weak though the ordeal has left me, I shall never be the one to grudge the time and effort I put into my attempts at reading 'The Cardinal's Mistress.' The book has considerably enlarged that dream-life I was telling you about a few minutes ago. It has broadened now to admit that scene in which I tell Mussolini, 'And what's more, you can't even write a book that anyone could read. You old Duce, you.' You can see for yourself how flat that would leave him."
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 31 July 2009, 12:34 AM
Bonnie's Avatar
Bonnie Bonnie is offline
 
Join Date: 01 January 1970
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Posts: 112
Icon06

Oh, well, I was starting to suspect there could be a problem. Thanks for checking, snopes. (I tried searching via Google Books, which shows snippets of The Portable Dorothy Parker, and was disappointed that "tossed" and "thrown" weren't coming up with respect to that particular review. Well, that and it seemed strange that it would take nearly 40 years before some columnist would find the quip funny enough to repeat it in the pages of his newspaper.) Still, I enjoyed discovering that the piece in The New Yorker -- with or without that questionable quote -- is titled "Duces Wild." (Isn't it?)

Maybe RivkahChaya will set us straight with regards to what she was looking at next time she visits the message board.

-- Bonnie
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 31 July 2009, 02:39 AM
RivkahChaya's Avatar
RivkahChaya RivkahChaya is offline
 
Join Date: 14 July 2006
Location: Indiana
Posts: 12,275
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bonnie View Post
Thank you, RivkahChaya! This is very helpful. (Does The Portable Dorothy Parker happen to mention in which issue her review appeared? I'm not doubting it's in The New Yorker. I just think it would be interesting to nail down the specifics of the attribution.)

-- Bonnie
Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
It's the 15 September 1928 issue, but I don't see any mention of "this is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly" in the review. Parker concludes with:

"Weak though the ordeal has left me, I shall never be the one to grudge the time and effort I put into my attempts at reading 'The Cardinal's Mistress.' The book has considerably enlarged that dream-life I was telling you about a few minutes ago. It has broadened now to admit that scene in which I tell Mussolini, 'And what's more, you can't even write a book that anyone could read. You old Duce, you.' You can see for yourself how flat that would leave him."
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bonnie View Post
Oh, well, I was starting to suspect there could be a problem. Thanks for checking, snopes. (I tried searching via Google Books, which shows snippets of The Portable Dorothy Parker, and was disappointed that "tossed" and "thrown" weren't coming up with respect to that particular review. Well, that and it seemed strange that it would take nearly 40 years before some columnist would find the quip funny enough to repeat it in the pages of his newspaper.) Still, I enjoyed discovering that the piece in The New Yorker -- with or without that questionable quote -- is titled "Duces Wild." (Isn't it?)

Maybe RivkahChaya will set us straight with regards to what she was looking at next time she visits the message board.

-- Bonnie
I guess right now you'll have to take my word that it is somewhere in the Constant Reader reviews reprinted in the reissued Portable Dorothy Parker. I've read it several times, the first time in the mid-1980s, well before I had internet access, so I know I read the line in the book. When I posted earlier, though, I had my son on my lap, not in a mood to be disturbed, so I just googled the line.

Right now, DH is looking for some piece of gear he is supposed to turn this weekend, and can't find, so I can't look it up now, but if I get a chance later, I'll page through the book and see if I can find it.

Parker didn't have a form to her reviews, so it is possible that while she had a specific review mostly devoted to The Cardinal's Mistress, she mentioned it again in another review, and used the line-- or that she mentioned it in another review, and whatever she was reviewing was referred to the way, and someone got the references mixed up. I'm pretty sure she referred to Mussolini more than once.

Snopes, there is a book she reviewed by a woman named Nan something, who claimed to be the mistress of one of the presidents, I think-- memory is very weak here-- is that the book?
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 31 July 2009, 02:48 AM
snopes's Avatar
snopes snopes is offline
 
Join Date: 18 February 2000
Location: California
Posts: 108,507
Reading

Quote:
Originally Posted by RivkahChaya View Post
Snopes, there is a book she reviewed by a woman named Nan something, who claimed to be the mistress of one of the presidents, I think-- memory is very weak here-- is that the book?
Constant Reader did review Nan Britton's The President's Daughter, but the quote in question doesn't appear there (and couldn't as given, since Britton's book was a memoir, not a novel).
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 31 July 2009, 02:52 AM
RivkahChaya's Avatar
RivkahChaya RivkahChaya is offline
 
Join Date: 14 July 2006
Location: Indiana
Posts: 12,275
Default

Clearly it has been too long since I have read this book. My favorite reviews are the ones of the book Appendicitis, by, IIRC, Thew Wright, FACS, or something, and the one where she spent most of the review complaining about her hangover. The short stories "Soldiers of the Republic," and "The Waltz" are superb.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 31 July 2009, 06:09 AM
Bonnie's Avatar
Bonnie Bonnie is offline
 
Join Date: 01 January 1970
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Posts: 112
Icon102

I'm not snopes, but I suspect he's been working from an electronic copy of The Complete New Yorker, which contains scanned images of everything published in the magazine since its first issue. It's not possible to search the complete text by keyword/phrase (e.g., "tossed," "great force"), which is admittedly annoying; rather, you're able to search abstracts put together by the publisher of the collection. These summaries are pretty thorough, though, and are at least helpful for searching for subjects. Searching Dorothy Parker's works (including those written by "Constant Reader") that appeared in The New Yorker for mention of Mussolini only pulls up the 1928 review snopes mentioned above. (And, as I mentioned, I've been unsuccessful in pulling up the line in The Portable Dorothy Parker that's available via Google Books.)

It'll be interesting to see what you find when you have a chance to look at your copy of the book. If I may suggest, make sure you check the Introduction, too. If the quote you recall isn't in Parker's reviews themselves, it's possible it wound up in whatever introductory remarks the publisher offered up.

-- Bonnie
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 01 August 2009, 11:32 PM
RivkahChaya's Avatar
RivkahChaya RivkahChaya is offline
 
Join Date: 14 July 2006
Location: Indiana
Posts: 12,275
Default

All right; the current edition of The Portable Dorothy Parker is not what I thought. It has been reissued "for the 21st century," and includes lots of short stories that were not in the collections she personally oversaw, and lots of non-New Yorker reviews and things. However, it has only about 1/2 the Constant Reader reviews included in the second edition that came out in either the late 1970s or early 1980s (the first one had only fiction and poetry, abnd was part of the Modern Library). Anyway, the 21st c. edition does not seem to have the line.

Aside from the New Yorker online, which is a paid subscription, if I understand correctly, it is possible to read old issues on microfilm. I did this when I was in college, to find all the Constant Reader columns not in the 2nd edition. I suppose it is remotely possible I read the line there, but I don't think so.

Anyway, I have not been able to locate my 2nd edition, which makes me suspect it is one of the books DH boxed up when I was in the hospital right after DS was born, and he moved two bookshelves out of our room, and into our storage unit.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 01 August 2009, 11:38 PM
Bonnie's Avatar
Bonnie Bonnie is offline
 
Join Date: 01 January 1970
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Posts: 112
Glasses

If you're pretty confident that the line is in the second edition and feel it a good use of time, I'll scan a copy of the second edition next time I'm at the library, which ought to be mid-week. (Unless someone else has a chance to do this before me.)

-- Bonnie
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 02 August 2009, 02:09 AM
samclem samclem is offline
 
 
Join Date: 23 March 2008
Location: Akron, OH
Posts: 25
Default

The story is repeated by Bennet Cerf, attributing it to Parker, in his newpaper column in late 1962.

It was also a one-off blurb/filler, unattributed to anyone, in a 1960 column(not by Cerf or anyone) in a newspaper. I would assume they got it from Cerf.

Many of Fred Shapiro's quotes from Parker cite Cerf's 1944 Try and Stop Me. Where Cerf got them, I haven't ever thought about.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 02 August 2009, 12:25 PM
Bonnie's Avatar
Bonnie Bonnie is offline
 
Join Date: 01 January 1970
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Posts: 112
Reporter

Thanks for finding and reporting those, samclem! It's interesting that both the 1960 and 1962 appearances substituted "thrown" for "tossed," which I think makes the quip not really work. The 1960/1962 form appears as:

Quote:
From a book review: "It is not a book to be lightly thrown aside. It should be thrown with great force." -- Los Angeles Mirror-News. [From The Oakland Tribune, 4 April 1960, Pg. 16.]
-- Bonnie
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 02 August 2009, 05:02 PM
RivkahChaya's Avatar
RivkahChaya RivkahChaya is offline
 
Join Date: 14 July 2006
Location: Indiana
Posts: 12,275
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bonnie View Post
If you're pretty confident that the line is in the second edition and feel it a good use of time, I'll scan a copy of the second edition next time I'm at the library, which ought to be mid-week. (Unless someone else has a chance to do this before me.)

-- Bonnie
That depends on how much work it is for you. If you are talking about scanning in a copy page by page, don't bother, because I'll be able to get to the shed and get my copy soon. If you have it on microfilm online, or something, and you can do it with keystrokes in a few minutes, then by all means.

Oh, and if my memory is correct, it is "book," and not "novel" in the original quote.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 02 August 2009, 07:52 PM
Bonnie's Avatar
Bonnie Bonnie is offline
 
Join Date: 01 January 1970
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Posts: 112
Vanishing

What I meant to say (and should have said) is that I'd be happy to take a look at a copy of the second edition next time I head to the library. Actually, I'll check out a copy so that I"ll have more time with it. The library I use has all editions, but I'm just going to check the second (since this is the one you own that's packed away). Unless there's value in checking other editions?

-- Bonnie
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 01:52 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.