Monday, April 22, 2013

Back to the Algonquin

Recently I've taken to reading Dorothy Parker, one of the premier American women of letters from the 1920's-1950's who wrote short stories, poems and book reviews, most notably for The New Yorker.  Parker was also one of 2-3 women who helped comprise the Algonquin Round Table--a loose-knit group of high-brow literary luminaries and wise-crackers who met in the Rose room at the Algonquin hotel each week for lunch and hi jinx.  Harold Ross, editor of The New Yorker, was also part of the crowd. 

However, Parker fell out of favor in the literary world in the late 1940's after she began writing pointed and revelatory stories about some others in the group (under the guise of fiction).  Truman Capote fell down the same rat hole later in his career and was ostracised by many of his Hollywood friends.

Writing is tricky business this way, especially when one tries to adapt or adopt real-life situations and conversations into essays and stories.  Too much information can be a dangerous thing.

Thankfully, I've never had to worry about offending people when I attempt these trysts.  Why would my wife, for example, be offended if I wrote a short story detailing the life of a middle-aged and somewhat-fattening woman who meted out discipline in a small town middle school?   What if I wrote another piece of fiction about this same woman, let's call her "Becky", who was married to a man of such incredible character and charm that birds wouldn't even poop on his shoulders?  And what if I wrote yet a third story about this woman, still plumping through menopause, who began riding a motorcycle and had nothing but good things to say about a husband who cooks dinners and provides delicious romance, let's even say of superb quality, and who occasionally spoons chocolate ice cream right out of the carton without telling her?

My hunch is that many people would believe this is fiction of the highest order and that these things didn't really happen, and could never happen, to people who still possessed all of their marbles and had all of their joints greased.  No one would be offended by these references to real people, living or dead, and they would think that that story about the little plumping woman was just a figment of imagination and bore no actual resemblance to anyone they knew.  

All they would know is that this is great writing.  They would have no idea that the writer could be in mortal danger if certain people actually read his blog.  

Just sayin'.    

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