What fresh hell is this?

Dorothy Parker image courtesy of photobucket.com

“What fresh hell is this?”

Without using the Google, do you know to whom those words are attributed to?

If you answered Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory, then you get points for paying attention (and for watching Big Bang Theory), but Dr. Cooper was not the brainchild of that phrase.

Actually it’s attributed to American author/critic/poet Dorothy Parker. She is reported to have exclaimed “What fresh hell is this?” when her train of thought was interrupted by a telephone. She then started using it in place of “hello” when answering the phone or a knock at her door. The actual quote was “What fresh hell can this be?” and although Ms. Parker is considered by many to be one of the wittiest women in history, she wasn’t being funny. She meant it. (Source: Dorothy Parker, Wikiquote)

Dorothy Parker was a fixture of 1920s literary society known for her acerbic wit and low opinion of romantic relationships. Hers was a life of turmoil, both external and internal. Tragedy seems a common thread among the lives of the world’s greatest poets, writers and artists. I don’t think pain and suffering makes people great artists. There are many whose lives are full of it. What makes them great is the courage to share their suffering with the world, even if it comes disguised as a work of art. While some may not consider humor in general and satire specifically a form of art, I find it to be one of art’s highest forms because there is such great truth in humor. It really is funny because it’s true. Here are a few great truths from Dorothy Parker:

“The cure for boredom is curiosity.
There is no cure for curiosity.”

“Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.”

“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

“They sicken of the calm who know the storm.”

“You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”

“If I didn’t care for fun and such,
I’d probably amount to much.
But I shall stay the way I am,
Because I do not give a damn.”

“That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.”

“Four be the things I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe.
Four be the things I’d been better without:
Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt.
Three be the things I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.
Three be the things I shall have till I die:
Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.”

I’ve seen a few people write about choosing their one word for the new year. My chosen word is one I’ve privately hoped for as long as I can remember. Perhaps this will be the year I will proclaim it publicly:


Courage to share truths both big and small, and the courage to acknowledge that I may fail miserably and know once and for all that I am strictly mediocre. Perhaps that’s a truth I’ve chosen not to explore. Because meaning to do something, and thinking about doing something, and thinking that you can do something is not at all like actually doing something, is it?

Ah, what fresh hell is this?

“There must be courage; there must be no awe. There must be criticism, for humor, to my mind, is encapsulated in criticism. There must be a disciplined eye and a wild mind…There must be a magnificent disregard of your reader, for if he cannot follow you, there is nothing you can do about it.” – Dorothy Parker


This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Fresh, hosted by the lovely and talented Peter Pollock. Visit his place for more fresh posts.

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