Posted in Short Stories

Dorothy Parker: Arrangement in Black and White (Deal Me In 2017 – Week 29)

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The woman with the pink velvet poppies wreathed round the assisted gold of her hair traversed the crowded room at an interesting gait combining a skip with a sidle, and clutched the lean arm of her host.

Wonderful Town

In “Arrangement in Black and White”, Dorothy Parker once again effectively uses the one-sided conversation for comedic effect. As a well-to-do party goer grabs the arm of her host, she talks his ear off about the party’s guest of honor, a well-known African American musician. As the “talker” rambles, she conveys to the host and the musician how open-minded she thinks she is when it comes to race relations.

The story intends to show just how much the woman is not open-minded and it succeeds in doing this with a humorous tone and situation maybe proving the woman to be ridiculous and idiotic. The problem with the story is that it suffers from what I call the All In The Family syndrome. If the reader already considers bigotry to be ridiculous and idiotic then they will read this story and say “See!” and perhaps laugh at the stupidity just as many did with the ground-breaking sitcom of the 1970’s. But its just as possible that a reader could go right along with the happy rambler approving of everything she says allowing the story to inadvertently glorify bigotry.

Bottom line: I doubt this story changed any minds when it was published in 1927 and I’m not sure it would change any minds ninety years later.

This story is included in my copy of Wonderful Town: New York Stories from the New Yorker edited by David Remnick. I read it when I selected the Eight of Hearts for Week 29 of my Deal Me In 2017 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.


Posted in Short Stories

A Fourth Anniversary Top Ten List

Today is the fourth anniversary of Mirror With Clouds. To celebrate, I am posting my top ten favorite short stories that I’ve read in 2015.  They are in order from 10 to 1.

10.) Here We Are by Dorothy Parker- A very funny story with one of my favorite quotations of the year:

“We have been married,” he said, “exactly two hours and twenty-six minutes.”

“My,” she said, “it seems like longer.”

9.) Miami-New York by Martha Gellhorn- One of Ernest Hemingway’s wives seems to have more of a sense of humor than he did.

8.) Death of a Favorite by J. F. Powers – One of my favorite narrators comes in the form of a cat.

7.) The Country Husband by John Cheever – A depressing but brilliantly written story about life in the suburbs with Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” as the soundtrack:

Then Donald Goslin, who lived at the corner, began to play the “Moonlight Sonata”. He did this nearly every night. He threw the tempo out the window and played it rubato from beginning to end, like an outpouring of tearful petulance, lonesomeness, and self-pity – of everything it was Beethoven’s greatness not to know. The music rang up and down the street beneath the trees like an appeal for love, for tenderness, aimed at some lonely housemaid – some fresh-faced, homesick girl from Galway, looking at old snapshots in her third-floor room.

6.) The Half-Skinned Steer by Annie Proulx – I liked this story so much I read more of Proulx’s Wyoming stories from her collection Close Range.

5.) Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates – This is the story that has pushed me beyond simply an appreciation for Oates’ work. It’s by far the scariest story I read this year.

4.) In the Gloaming by Alice Elliot Dark – Tear jerker? Yes. Sentimental? No. Saddest story I read this year.

3.) God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen by Ernest Hemingway – A disturbing story with one of my favorite first lines:

In those days the distances were all very different, the dirt blew off the hills that now have been cut down, and Kansas City was very like Constantinople.

2.) A Silver Dish by Saul Bellow – The title by no means gives away how funny and irreverent this story is.

1.) A Voice in the Night by Steven Millhauser- My fascination with Steven Millhauser’s work only increased with this story and it contained one of my favorite final lines:

A calling. Not Samuel’s call but another. Not that way but this way. Samuel ministering unto the Lord, his teacher-father ministering unto the generations. And the son? What about him? Far, far to the west of everywhere, ministering unto the Muse. Thanks, Old Sea-Parter, for leaving me be.


Posted in Short Stories

Dorothy Parker: Here We Are


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“We have been married,” he said, “exactly two hours and twenty-six minutes.”

“My,” she said, “it seems like longer.”

I thought Dorothy Parker’s short story “The Waltz” was one of the most hilarious stories I read in 2014.  This week (Week 5 of Deal Me In), I read her story “Here We Are” and I think it’s even funnier.  My Deal Me In 2015 list can be seen here.  Deal Me In 2015 is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

The entire story is set on a train as a newly married couple head to New York City for their honeymoon. The nervousness is apparent on the parts of both the bride and the groom with the title phrase being thrown out during awkward lulls in the conversation.  The poor groom continuously puts his foot in his mouth giving the bride just enough reason to accuse him of looking too long at one of her bridesmaids or of not liking her family. I get the distinct impression that the bride isn’t really worried about what her new husband thought – she just doesn’t know what else to say.  With the “wedding night” looming large on the horizon, the husband does his best to dance around the topic that is foremost on his mind.

While “The Waltz” contrasts a young lady’s outward thoughts written in conversation with her inward thoughts written in narrative form, “Here We Are” takes that concept one step further. I’m amazed at Parker’s ability to write a conversation of small talk with frequent silences and to still let the reader know that much more is going on underneath the dialogue without explaining it.  She manages to let the conversation speak for itself.  This line neatly sums up the story:

There was a silence with things going on in it.

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.