Dorothy Parker has been passed over for inclusion in the inaugural group of a dozen authors named to the New York State Writers Hall of Fame. The list of writers whose “writings have made a lasting contribution to literature” was chosen by the New York Library Association and they will be feted at a gala this spring in Albany.
Parker (1893-1967) is one of the state’s best-known writers and world famous for being a New Yorker. Last September, the Museum of the City of New York named Parker to its list of “The New York City 400” as one of the people that have made the city great since Henry Hudson first spied it 400 years ago. However, the New York Library Association has overlooked an author that is closely identified with the Empire State and New York City.
There are no criteria listed in the announcement for how the 12 authors (10 deceased, two still breathing) were chosen. Having a New York birthplace is not one of the criteria: 2010 selectees Edna St. Vincent Millay, a Parker contemporary, is from Maine and Elizabeth Bishop from Massachusetts. Parker can’t claim native-born status because she came into the world at her family’s summer beach cottage on the Jersey Shore. However, she grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. One of her teenage apartments, 310 West 80th Street, got a landmark bronze plaque last year.
It is an eclectic list that Parker is not on. The two living authors are Robert Caro and Mary Gordon. The deceased are: James Baldwin, Elizabeth Bishop, Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Isaac B. Singer, Edith Wharton, E.B White and Walt Whitman.
However, Parker is in good company. Also skipped over are such Empire State all-stars as Herman Melville, Sojourner Truth, J.D. Salinger, Dawn Powell and Nathanael West. Incredibly, the freshman class also does not include Washington Irving or Susan Sontag.
According to a press release from the Library Association, the 12 names were chosen by Harold Augenbraum, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation; Barbara Genco, retired librarian from Brooklyn Public Library and Editor of Collection Management at Reed Business, Brian Kenney, Editorial Director for Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and School Library Journal; Kathleen Masterson director of the New York State Council on the Arts Literary Program, Bertha Rogers, executive director of Bright Hill Press & creator of the New York State Literary Tree; Rocco Staino, chairman of the Empire State Book Festival and Hong Yao, Associate Coordinator Collection Development of the Queens Library.
The hall of fame will be inducted as part of Empire State Book Festival Gala scheduled from 6-10 p.m. on Friday, April 9, 2010 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Albany. The gala will kickoff the state’s first Empire State Book Festival.
Perhaps the NYLA will remember Parker’s name in 2011. If not, there is always the New Jersey Hall of Fame membership.
Update 2-6-2010 12:05 PM: We got a very nice message from Rocco Staino, Chairman of NYS Writers Hall of Fame. He is putting it to the DPS to get Parker nominated for 2011:
The New York State Writers Hall of Fame was recently established to celebrate the literary heritage of the Empire State. You are certainly correct in pointing out the number of great writers who were absence from the list. It was a long and difficult process and all those names that you mentioned, including Dorothy Parker, were seriously considered.
The absence of their names from the list is in no way an attack on their literary greatness but in fact illustrates the rich literary heritage of New York. I am sure all those you mention will be added to the Hall of Fame in the years to come.
Nominations are open to the public and I encourage you and your readers to visit and nominate an author for induction in 2011.