Scroll down for Amygdala archives! You know you want to. [Temporarily rather borked, along with rest of template.]
Amygdala's endorsements are below my favorite quotations! Keep scrolling!
Amygdala will move to an entirely new and far better blog template ASAP, aka RSN, aka incrementally/badly punctuated evolution.
Tagging posts, posts by category, next/previous post indicators, and other post-2003 design innovations are incrementally being tweaked/kludged/melting.
Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
Commenting Rules: Only comments that are courteous and respectful of other commenters will be allowed. Period.
You must either open a Google/Blogger.com/Gmail Account, or sign into comments at the bottom of any post with OpenID, LiveJournal, Typepad, Wordpress, AIM account, or whatever ID/handle available to use. Hey, I don't design Blogger's software: sorry!
Posting a spam-type URL will be grounds for deletion.
Comments on posts over 21 days old are now moderated, and it may take me a long while to notice and allow them.
I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
I'm sometimes available to some degree as a paid writer, editor, researcher, or proofreader. I'm sometimes available as a fill-in Guest Blogger at mid-to-high-traffic blogs that fit my knowledge set.
If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
you are welcome to do so via the PayPal buttons.
"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
At a Manhattan cocktail party in 1931, Dorothy Parker was delighted to meet a writer whose latest novel she had showered with praise. Dashiell Hammett, she said in her New Yorker review of The Glass Key, was as all-American "as a sawed-off shotgun," a guy "so hard-boiled you could roll him on the White House lawn." Such rapturous compliments seldom appeared in her book column, but she had admired Red Harvest and The Maltese Falcon, and suddenly encountering "my hero" in person made her drop impulsively to her knees in homage. Hammett took this bit of Wagnerian theatrics in the intended spirit—he laughed. Dash's girlfriend, pouting nearby, was not amused. Afterward she screamed at him for permitting a literary critic to kneel in such a disgusting manner, as if he could have stopped Mrs. Parker, who ordinarily knelt to nobody.
It is unlikely that Parker noticed Hammett's friend, Lil Kober. Most recently a manuscript reader for MGM, she was married to Arthur Kober, screenwriter and one-time press agent. An ambitious twenty-five-year-old of no particular accomplishment, she tended to dwell in the shadows of men, which may be why she failed to make an impression on Parker, a woman accustomed to standing in the spotlight on her own two feet.
Despite that inauspicious beginning at William Rose Benét's party, Parker and Lillian Hellman were destined to become best friends, their relationship like few others because events took place beyond the grave that even the looniest screenwriter might have rejected. When they met again, four years later, much had changed; by then the girlfriend had become a person of importance in her own right. Coming from nowhere, she had divorced Kober and resumed her maiden name after her Broadway success, The Children's Hour, about two teachers accused of having a lesbian relationship, and in some quarters she was best known as the model for the stylish Nora Charles character in Hammett's popular novel The Thin Man. Lillian turned out to be just the kind of woman Dottie appreciated, an especially spunky person who was pretty hard-boiled herself.
Over the next three decades, Parker and Hellman were to take exceptional pleasure in each other's company. The twelve-year difference in ages seemed not to matter because the two of them invariably found the same things amusing or ridiculous, although Parker was funny as hell and Hellman could never match her razor-sharp wit. As Hellman said, it was "a very good relationship. I think she was as devoted to me as I was to her." Epitomizing Parker's feelings is a lovingly inscribed copy of The Portable Dorothy Parker (now owned by director Mike Nichols): "For Miss Hellman—The most beautiful, the most rich, the most chic, the most dashing, the most mysterious, the most fragrant, the most nobly-born, the most elegant, the most cryptic, the most startling, the most glorious, the most lovely—In short, for Miss Hellman (from Miss Parker)." Theirs was an old-fashioned female friendship, characterized by Victorian good manners. It was respectful. It was civilized. Never, Hellman remembered, did they exchange an unpleasant word: "I enjoyed her more than I have ever enjoyed any other woman."
Skip ahead a few decades (preferably, read the full article; if at all interested in Parker, there's good stuff).
[...] Realizing that she ought to take stock and put her affairs in order, in February 1965 Parker summoned Oscar Bernstien to the Volney to draw up her will.
A little more than two years later, Parker was found dead in her apartment, expired of heart failure at seventy-three. First on the scene was her close friend Beatrice Ames, who made sure that the hotel removed Dottie's poodle to a safe place. A short time later came Lillian, just back from a trip to the Soviet Union, who immediately took charge of arrangements at Campbell's and at Ferncliff Crematory, in Hartsdale, NY. Some of Parker's friends were startled to read the news of her death on page 1 of the New York Times, an obituary of awesome prominence, and wondered if it was really merited. The following day, despite Parker's express wish for "no funeral services, formal or informal," she was on show at Campbell's, decked out in the Coopers' brocade caftan.
The slapdash service lasted about as long as it took a motorist to pass through a car wash. First, a violin solo, Bach's "Air on a G String." Then Hellman duly praised Parker as "a great lady" known for her "independence of mind and spirit." Zero Mostel made some sour remarks about how Parker herself wouldn't be there if she'd had her way. Then another violin selection and it was done. Critiques followed. On the sidewalk outside Campbell's, Sid Perelman complained that the program had been too long. Dottie with her "very short fuse" would have been tapping her foot impatiently. Another mourner, Beatrice Ames, could not help thinking that Parker would have "howled" had she seen how Lilly had run the show.
Soon afterward, Parker's will was read. It was no surprise that she appointed Hellman as literary executor—a shrewd, high-energy businesswoman, she was the obvious choice to oversee the estate. Perhaps figuring that Hellman had no need of money, though more likely because she believed passionately in racial equality, Parker had decided to place her sparrow-size nest egg where it could do some good. Her entire estate, including any copyrights and royalties from her writings, was left to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man she had never met but admired tremendously. In the event of King's death, it was to go to the NAACP.
When notified of the unexpected bequest, which amounted to around twenty thousand dollars excluding unpaid bills and burial expenses, King was puzzled. He had no idea who Parker was.
On the face of it, Hellman seemed pleased about King, publicly applauding Parker's "strong feelings about civil liberty and Negro rights" and saying she was "very impressed" by such a noble bequest. But in private she was fuming. King irritated her—apparently he reminded her of southern preachers from her childhood—but what upset her most was her friend's betrayal. Having managed to acquire control of Hammett's literary estate, Hellman had also expected to inherit Parker's; indeed, she believed she was entitled to it. As literary executor, she would be expected to make all decisions but would not benefit financially; proceeds from sales of the work would go to King, the new owner of the copyrights. Within a year of Parker's death, the civil-rights leader was assassinated and the estate became property of the NAACP, an organization for which Hellman had no respect whatsoever because she considered it timid and ineffectual. Ignoring the fact that King had been a vigorous thirty-six at the time of Parker's demise, Hellman continued to berate her friend and hold her personally responsible for the fate of the coveted copyrights. In a gloves-off mood, she didn't mince words with playwright Howard Teichmann: "That goddamn bitch Dorothy Parker. . . . You won't believe what she's done. I paid her hotel bill at the Volney for years, kept her in booze, paid for her suicide attempts—all on the promise that when she died, she would leave me the rights to her writing. . . . But what did she do? She left them directly to the NAACP. Damn her!"
The correspondence between Hellman and her lawyers demonstrates how rigidly she guarded the use of Parker's work. Her response to practically every request was no. Permission for A Dorothy Parker Portfolio, a Broadway production starring Julie Harris and featuring Cole Porter songs, was denied, although it is hard to make sense of her objections. In the case of would-be biographers, she emphatically fell back on the excuse that Parker had been dead set against any such work. This was hogwash, of course, because Parker seldom if ever turned down an interview request and had done several lengthy oral histories, including a miniature autobiography for the Paris Review's "Writers at Work" series. In fact, the one who scorned biographers as predators was Hellman, dubbing them magazine hacks hired by greedy publishers to feed the salacious appetites of readers, producing results that revealed nothing worthwhile about their subjects' work. Determined to drive off the scavengers, Hellman refused to cooperate, denying access to source material and permission to quote.
And on and on and on it went; the sheer amount and variety of abuse Hellman posthumously submitted Parker to is astonishing; I'd read only a little of this before. The hostile introduction to a collection of Parker's work she paid Brendan Gill to write; the... well, just a bit more:
But Hellman refused to admit defeat, continuing to slug it out until a court ruled for the NAACP in 1972. In an interview with the New York Times Book Review, Hellman was still lashing out: "It's one thing to have real feeling for black people, but to have the kind of blind sentimentality about the NAACP, a group so conservative that even many blacks now don't have any respect for it, is something else. She must have been drunk when she did it."
Forced to relinquish all authority over Parker's work, she dropped her old friend like a hot potato.
In the winter of 1987, after completing a biography of Parker, I was preparing to deliver the manuscript to my publisher when I made a curious discovery. One afternoon I was chatting on the phone with Hellman's attorney, O'Dwyer, who was sitting in his office on Wall Street. Because I routinely verify the whereabouts of my deceased subjects, I mentioned one remaining bit of business: a visit to Parker's grave at Ferncliff Cemetery, in Hartsdale.
"Oh, she's not there," O'Dwyer interrupted. "Of course she is," I began to argue. "No, no. I'm looking right at her." A funny thing had happened to Parker's ashes, he explained. They hadn't been claimed. "Excuse me?" I said. "Never buried?"
As it turned out, Ferncliff's periodic reminders to Hellman about the unpaid storage bill had gone unheeded. By the early '70s, no longer executor and presumably believing this kind of problem was not her business, Hellman had no intention of covering the cost or of paying for a spot in Ferncliff's urn garden. On the other hand, she feared a scandal if the crematory were to make good on its unspoken threat to throw the ashes away. In the end, she advised Ferncliff to package the remains and ship them to her attorneys. Upon receiving it, O'Dwyer and Bernstien stored the package in the bottom drawer of a file cabinet and stood by for further instructions, which never arrived. Hellman died in 1984.
Dorothy Parker's ashes sat in the damn file cabinet for fifteen years.
I only wish we could hear what Parker would have to say about that.
Read The Rest Scale: 3.5 out of 5 if at all interested in Dorothy Parker (or, I suppose, Lillian Hellman); more if more interested -- I was extremely fond of Parker's work since my adolescence, myself); there are some good lines and anecdotes and insights I'm leaving out here, for space.
4/11/2006 03:16:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
That's the problem with your own funeral. You have no real control over it.