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Back in the Roaring Twenties, Dorothy Parker was the reigning Iron Chef of caustic comments—slicing, dicing, and skewering her targets with devastating precision, before heaping wasabi on their wit-mutilated corpses.
For instance, when President Calvin Coolidge (who was famous for being a man of few words) died, Parker quipped, "How could they tell?" Cue up the sword-slashing sound effects. As Prince said in "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker": "I needed someone with a quicker wit than mine—and Dorothy was fast."
But Dorothy Parker didn't only trade pointed barbs (usually with other humorists at the famous Algonquin Roundtable at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City) and pen funny poems—she wrote short stories too. "Here We Are" was published in 1931 in Cosmopolitan, and it ably demonstrates Parker's wit.
But instead of making snappy quips herself, Parker goes for something more character-based—using lots of dialogue, and only a little description. She lets humor emerge from the conversation between her two unnamed characters: a confused, nervous pair of newlyweds who [spoiler alert] are implicitly discussing consummating their marriage while talking about everything else under the sun. They haven't done the nasty yet, and they end up acting like two separate bundles of insecurities.
Parker, being a famous, worldly New York City wit, might just be knocking her characters down a notch and calling them unsophisticated rubes who know nothing of life (let alone sex) and can't find anything interesting to talk about. Their conversation is largely restricted to pointless bickering and making jealous comments.
But there is a little human compassion in the story too, plus a more serious take on marriage and what makes it tick. The young couple seems like a pair of total innocents in a way that's a little endearing… though their conversation seems calculated to exasperate as well as amuse.
And their worries aren't just about sex, but about the greater challenges of spending a lifetime together. Parker wasn't just a Grand High Priestess of Snark who went around ridiculing people, after all—she was a big fan of the Civil Rights movement and left everything she had to Martin Luther King Jr. when she died in 1967. "Here We Are" shows both her acid tongue and her heart of gold.
Crank up the Barry White, because this is a story about love. And by "love," we mean sex. And by "sex," we mean people who are nervous about sex because they haven't done it yet. Actually, [spoiler alert] even by the time the story ends they still haven't gotten around to making the beast with two backs… so adjust your lascivious expectations accordingly.
This story is about how crazy-awkward having sex (or not having sex) can be. And who can't relate to that?
"Here We Are" is about a pair of newlyweds—married just two hours and twenty-six minutes earlier—who have petty arguments on a train, headed toward their NYC honeymoon suite. But the bickering is just a distraction from what's really on their minds. They're thinking of, ahem, something else. That's right: they're thinking about doing the proverbial nasty.
But like we said, this ain't Fifty Shades of Grey. This is more like Fifty Shades of Clever Dialogue—because clever dialogue was really what Dorothy Parker was all about. She often turned her signature razor-sharp, white-hot wit toward matters of the heart and bedroom (check out her bawdy poetry for more hilarity).
But in "Here We Are" she waxes wit-tastic not only about sexy sex, but the institution of marriage, the possibility of lasting relationship happiness, and true love. Yeah, she goes there. And what's not to love about the combination of the awkwardness of sexual anticipation, exalted Matters of The Heart, and scathing, brilliant conversation?
Dorothy Parker's Page at the Poetry Foundation
This is a great resource for Parker's poetry—typically witty and ultra-clever.
This article discusses Parker's achievements and a play dramatizing her life-story at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
PBS Article on The Algonquin Round Table
Parker appears frequently in this article, which describes the rise and decline of The Algonquin Round Table—a group of writers and humorists known for their acid-tongued wit.
Paris Review Interview with Dorothy Parker
Towards the end of her life, Parker sat down for this interview with the prestigious Paris Review—the major magazine for interviews with famous writers.
"Rebel in Evening Clothes" by Christopher Hitchens
One of Parker's witty, intellectual descendants pays her homage: Hitchens particularly praises Parker's support for the Civil Rights Movement.
Roger Ebert's Review of Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle
The famous film critic Roger Ebert gives a thumb up to this movie about Parker's life.
Rosemary Gill Reads "Here We Are" in Norfolk CT
A local writer reads Parker's story at a public reading in Norfolk, CT
Video of "Here We Are" One Act Play Version:
Since it consists almost entirely of dialogue and has only two characters, "Here We Are" has often been adapted into a one-act play. This version (which is the only one on YouTube) is from West Valley High School in Yakima, Washington.
The Ten Year Lunch: Documentary on The Algonquin Round Table
This hour-long documentary gives us the lowdown on The Algonquin Round Table—Parker's circle of witty friends who used to meet up at The Algonquin Hotel in New York.
Anne Hathaway reads a selection from another Dorothy Parker story, "The Garter."
Technically, this has nothing to do with "Here We Are"—except that it's another Parker story. Also, the fact that a famous person is reading it somehow makes it worthy of being included here.
Dorothy Parker Reading Her Poem, "A Perfect Rose"
There's no recording of Parker reading "Here We Are"—but if you want to hear what she sounded like, you can listen to her recite this poem.
Budd Schulberg Talks About Dorothy Parker
The famous screenwriter, Budd Schulberg (who wrote On the Waterfront) remembers Parker.
Dorothy Parker Reads Her Poem, "Resumé"
Here's another Parker poem, read by the poet herself—it's got some pretty dark humor in it.
Photo of Dorothy Parker
This photo shows Parker as a young woman—around the time she was breaking onto the literary scene.
Another Photo of Dorothy Parker, Later in Life
Here's Parker later in life—during the period when she was throwing her weight around with the Civil Rights Movement.
Photo of The Algonquin Round Table Members
In this group photo of the Algonquin Round Table, Parker is seated at lower, right-center. (She's the only woman in the picture.)
Illustration of Algonquin Round Table Members
This is a caricature of the Round Table's members—Parker is on the lower left-hand side of the table.