Finally got started on "The Portable Dorothy Parker" and believe I made one mistake already. I followed the normal mechanical method of bookreading, and started from the beginning. The introduction, I think, gives too much away about the author and one can’t help but be influenced, as with Plath, to read author into the stories. I much prefer reading something on its own–it would be obvious of course that we would place it time-wise and in other ways into its proper postion–to enjoy the story for itself, then read about the author afterwards when one is, for one reason or another, shaking one’s head and saying "who wrote this?"
Now I’ve learned to deconstruct story into its various elements, and being fresh from the course, may tend to get a bit too analytical here (I’ve finished the course journal where these things were hidden for many months!). But, after just having read the first story, "The Lovely Leave," I am intrigued by Parker. I’m sure I have read other works by her over the years, but can’t particularly recall them now. The narrative structure is linear of a short timeline from a phone call announcing a husband’s 24-hour leave from military service during WW II, to the actual arrival, and then to the leave itself which carries the trauma of it being shortened down to a few hours at most.
The plot structure is based upon this timeline, and the points of conflict are very much involved with the ticking of the clock. It’s a fascinating ride via the wife’s introspection and self-resolve in the planning of the reunion of spikes of tension building and relaxing in tandem with her determination not to let the brevity of the visit bother her enough to ruin the visit. And an interesting aspect of once again tying in time–a flashback to that previous visit, and better still, an almost exact repetition of it up until the very last moment of parting when the issue is resolved by a new communication between the couple.
I think the story is brilliant–though dated by the "wifely" concept of the woman left sitting home as her husband goes off to war. But Parker’s understanding of human nature, and the sharp wit of sarcasm she gives her protagonist is most evident in the dialogue as well as the thoughts of the wife to which we are privy.
This is good writing. I hope all the stories are as well-executed and interesting as this.