Excitement ever running its streets

17 December 2013 § 1 Comment

16 December

Dorothy Parker has been on my mind since I read an article about her in May.  Upon seeing the photograph with the article, you can tell immediately by her eyes that she was an insomniac.  She is clearly awake, but there is a weariness over time that is apparent, and her eyes are wide and slightly unfocused, yet you can tell she is concentrating.  A moment’s research confirmed the speculation.

Als jungfrau

Witticism percolating.

Many thoughts about art crammed into one’s brain sometimes causes an implosion rather than an outpouring of insight and analysis, so rather than recounting recent adventures and thoughts in New York, I give you Dorothy Parker on the city:

It occurs to me that there are other towns.  It occurs to me so violently that I say, at intervals, “Very well, if New York is going to be like this, I’m going to live somewhere else.”  And I do—that’s the funny part of it.  But then one day there comes to me the sharp picture of New York at its best, on a shiny blue-and-white Autumn day with its buildings cut diagonally in halves of light and shadow, with its straight neat avenues colored with quick throngs, like confetti in a breeze.  Some one, and I wish it had been I, has said that “Autumn is the Springtime of big cities.”  I see New York at holiday time, always in the late afternoon, under a Maxfield Parish sky, with the crowds even more quick and nervous but even more good-natured, the dark groups splashed with the white of Christmas packages, the lighted holly-strung shops urging them in to buy more and more.  I see it on a Spring morning, with the clothes of the women as soft and as hopeful as the pretty new leaves on a few, brave trees.  I see it at night, with the low skies red with the black-flung lights of Broadway, those lights of which Chesterton—or they told me it was Chesterton—said, “What a marvelous sight for those who cannot read!”  I see it in the rain, I smell the enchanting odor of wet asphalt, with the empty streets black and shining as ripe olives.  I see it—by this time, I become maudlin with nostalgia—even with its gray mounds of crusted snow, its little Appalachians of ice along the pavements.  So I go back.  And it is always better than I thought it would be.

I suppose that is the thing about New York.  It is always a little more than you had hoped for.  Each day, there, is so definitely a new day.  “Now we’ll start over,” it seems to say every morning, “and come on, let’s hurry like anything.”

London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful.  Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it.  There is excitement ever running its streets.  Each day, as you go out, you feel the little nervous quiver that is yours when you sit in the theater just before the curtain rises.  Other places may give you a sweet and soothing sense of level; but in New York there is always the feeling of “Something’s going to happen.”  It isn’t peace. But, you know, you do get used to peace, and so quickly. And you never get used to New York.

From “My Home Town” (1928).  Also: further reading.

Once, she said this:

Sometimes I think I’ll give up trying, and just go completely Russian and sit on a stove and moan all day.

And that is why we are friends.

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