So you can read my books

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Dorothy Parker, Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway 

(their ghosts rather

and I were playing poker at my table at Meilori's.

Dorothy Parker took a sip of her whiskey and smiled at me.

"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.”

"Bah!" snapped Hemingway.  "With the first of June and the start of this senseless BuNoWriMo, the lemmings are throwing together words just as fast as they can to create hovels of novels."

Mark lit a cigar and grinned, "Well, I certainly believe in using the right word not its second cousin.  Hemingway, did you mean to rhyme?  Weren't you a poet, too, Dorothy?"

Dorothy bent down, grabbed a rubber doll whose throat was torn from ear to ear, and tossed it to her poodle -- who faithful even beyond death -- lingered beside her mistress.

"Ha! My verses. I cannot say poems. Like everybody was then, I was following in the exquisite footsteps of Miss Millay, unhappily in my own horrible sneakers.

 My verses are no damn good. Let’s face it, honey, my verse is terribly dated—as anything once fashionable is dreadful now. 

I gave it up; it wasn’t getting any better, but nobody seemed to notice my magnificent gesture."

Fitz, as he liked me to call him, took a sip of his own champagne.  "Never confuse a single failure with a final defeat."

Hemingway gruffed, "We are all defeated in the end.  It is only the struggle that matters and why you struggle in the first place."

He glared at Ratatoskr who scampered from ghost to ghost, looking at their hands and whispering in my ear.  "He's telling you our cards, isn't he?"

I shook my head.  "He's merely teasing you and telling me terrible jokes."

"How terrible?" frowned Twain.

I sighed, "How many lives does a Nazi cat have?"

Mark frowned, "How many?"

"Nein," giggled Ratatoskr.

Dorothy groaned, "Ouch!"

She said to me, "It’s a popular supposition that there was much more communication between writers in the twenties. The Round Table discussions in the Algonquin, for example."

"Gertrude Stein did us the most harm when she said, 'You’re all a lost generation.' That got around to certain people and we all said, 'Whee! We’re lost.'

 Perhaps it suddenly brought to us the sense of change. 

Or irresponsibility. 

But don’t forget that, though the people in the twenties seemed like flops, they weren’t. Fitzgerald, over there and the rest of them, reckless as they were, drinkers as they were, they worked damn hard and all the time."

I asked, "Did the “lost generation” attitude you speak of have a detrimental effect on your own work?"

"Silly of me to blame it on dates, but so it happened to be. 

Dammit, it was the twenties and we had to be smarty. I wanted to be cute. That’s the terrible thing. I should have had more sense."

Fitz sighed, "At eighteen, our convictions are hills from which we look.  At forty-five, they are caves in which we hide."

Mark Twain nodded, "Each day is like a coin.  We can spend it any way we like.  But we can only spend it once."

Hemingway lit his own cigar and puffed out the smoky words.  

"The living think they have more days than they do.  They look out at a thousand lives.  At the end, they'll turn around and find only one --

and if they frittered away precious days investing in work that is inferior, that one life will be inferior."

Fitz looked into the shadows.  "All good writing is swimming underwater and holding your breath, knowing it will not last."

Ratatoskr looked up at me from the table top.  "What do you think of this Bruno WhyMe nonsense, Roland."

I smiled sadly.  "Some of my friends are for it.  Some of them are against it."

Dorothy asked, "And you?"

"I'm for my friends."

Ratatoskr groaned.


  1. Here's a Dorothy Parker poem I know by heart:

    In youth it was a way I had
    To do my best to please
    And change with every passing fad
    To suit his theories.
    But now I know the things I know
    And do the things I do,
    And if you do not like me so,
    To hell, my love, with you.

    1. Dorothy was a wit! Sadly, her life was a bitter one:

      From a conflicted and unhappy childhood, Parker rose to acclaim, both for her literary output in such venues as The New Yorker and as a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table.

      Following the breakup of the circle, Parker traveled to Hollywood to pursue screenwriting.

      Her successes there, including two Academy Award nominations, were curtailed as her involvement in left-wing politics led to a place on the Hollywood blacklist. :-(

  2. I prefer the advice of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Life IS fleeting, so we must take time to live it.

    1. Hemingway and Fitzgerald both had wise advice. Sadly, the two became victims of their own inner demons. Life is, indeed, fleeting -- cherish the beautiful moments while we have them.

  3. Replies
    1. Jeremy, Ratatoskr thought you would like that. ;-)