Posted in Short Stories

Dorothy Parker: The Waltz

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We’re already up to Week 40 in the Deal Me In 2014 short story project and the Seven of Diamonds brought me to Dorothy Parker’s “The Waltz”.  This is the first time I’ve read anything by Parker but I don’t think it will be the last.  My Deal Me In 2014 list can be seen here.  DMI is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.


“The Waltz” is a glance at a young lady (I think she’s relatively young) and her thoughts as she dances with a gentleman at a party. We get to “hear” what she says out loud to the man because it’s in italics. This is only a small part of the story. The real part is the rest of it in which she expresses silently to herself (and to the reader) what she really thinks.

Of course this provides huge laughs in Parker’s Southern style because what is said out loud is drastically different from what is thought.  The story is well worth reading for the humor and doesn’t take a long time to get through.  While it was written for the New Yorker in 1933, I couldn’t help thinking of Jane Austen situations.  The significance of “The Waltz” apart from it’s funny side most likely comes from the circumstances in which many women have found themselves over the years, decades and centuries where they must pretend  to be something they are not.  The man in the story doesn’t really say or think much.  He doesn’t have to.

Here’s a snippet of the lady’s thoughts when she replies out loud that she would love to dance:

What can you say, when a man asks you to dance with him?  I most certainly will not dance with you, I’ll see you in hell first…Oh, yes, do let’s dance together.  It’s so nice to meet a man who isn’t a scaredy-cat about catching my beri-beri.

I confess I was a little afraid to find out what beri-beri was.

12 thoughts on “Dorothy Parker: The Waltz

    1. I have at least one more of her stories somewhere on my shelf, but this was the first one I’ve ever read. It’s very funny!

      I vaguely remember Jennifer Jason Leigh playing Parker in a movie – “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle”. I know someone played F. Scott Fitzgerald in it but I don’t remember who.

      1. Just requested a Dorothy Parker collection from the library, so hope to start it soon! It does have “The Waltz” in it.

        And so cool that JJL played her in a movie! I will have to see if I can track that down. I quite like JJL, though admittedly that’s partly because I’m a big fan of her dad, Vic Morrow. Looked up the movie on and I see it has Campbell Scott! One of my favorite Hamlets! Very cool. Of course, my library doesn’t have it, but maybe I’ll score a used copy online sometime.

      2. Yeah, I don’t think it was a huge commercial success. I just remember watching it because I like literature from around that time period. I also think JJL did a pretty good job as Parker.

  1. This sounds delightful! I loved Dorothy Parker’s poetry when I was a teen, but I don’t think I’ve ever read any of her stories. This sounds like a good place to start.

    1. Delightful is a good way to describe this story! It’s definitely a lighter, less serious, look at the war between the sexes, but there’s some depth there, too.

  2. This story would have been a nice contrapuntal tale to my selection for this week. :-). I don’t think I’ve ever read any Dorothy Parker. Is that her picture on the book cover or just a random girl? If it’s DP, she’s very pretty. 🙂

    1. I think she will show up on my 2015 list. I believe that is Dorothy Parker on the cover. I almost included a different book cover that had Jennifer Jason Leigh on it (see movie mentioned in comments above). There are some similarities between the two.

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