In a curious episode of The New Yorker podcast, a Dorothy Parker short story deemed so poor it was dropped from the latest edition of The Portable Dorothy Parker was chosen. “I Live On Your Visits” is read on the podcast by Pulitzer Prize winning author Andrew Sean Greer. He says that a friend gave him the Portable when he was 17, so that must have been the revised edition that Viking Press published after Parker’s 1967 death. The story was dropped by editor Marion Meade in the 2006 edition, in print now from Penguin Classics. Today, the only two places to read the story are in Dorothy Parker Complete Stories, and via the magazine website.
Following his reading, Greer has a discussion with Deborah Treisman, the magazine’s fiction editor. She read Meade’s biography, Dorothy Parker What Fresh Hell Is This, but does not completely get clued into Parker or her enduring appeal. At one point she wonders if any 17 year olds today know who Parker is, so she must not have heard of The Gilmore Girls. In the pair’s dissection of the story, neither grasp that the story is about her close friend, Beatrice Ames Stewart, the former wife of Algonquin Round Table member Donald Ogden Stewart. He left his wife for the widow of muckraker Lincoln Steffens, Ella Winter. The couple’s two sons, who Bea raised alone, are the inspiration for the character in the story. (It was Bea Stewart who went to Parker’s apartment the day she died and took her dog home with her, or else Lillian Hellman would have removed the collar and turned the pooch out into Central Park).
Greer and Treisman also did not realize that everything in the short story is similar to the The Ladies of the Corridor, which Parker co-wrote with Arnaud d’Usseau in 1953. They analyze the background and some of the dialogue, but don’t ever get what Parker was trying to convey about living alone. They spent a lot of time trying to discover the humor in the story (there isn’t any). About the best thing that is said on the show is that Parker helped found the magazine.
It is worthwhile to listen to here. But I wonder what the show would have been like if one of her more complex or deeper pieces had been chosen.