Poet and short story writer Dorothy Parker was born in New Jersey on August 22, 1893. When she was 5, her mother died and her father, a clothes salesman, remarried. Parker had a great antipathy toward her stepmother and refused to speak to her. She attended parochial school and Miss Dana's school in Morristown, New Jersey, for a brief time before dropping out at age 14. A voracious reader, she decided to pursue a career in literature. She began her career by writing verse as well as captions for a fashion magazine. During the years of her greatest fame, Dorothy Parker was known primarily as a writer of light verse, an essential member of the Algonquin Round Table, and a caustic and witty critic of literature and society. She is remembered now as an almost legendary figure of the 1920s and 1930s. Her reviews and staff contributions to three of the most sophisticated magazines of this century, Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, and Esquire, were notable for their put-downs. For all her highbrow wit, however, Dorothy Parker was liberal, even radical, in her political views, and the hard veneer of brittle toughness that she showed to the world was often a shield for frustrated idealism and soft sensibilities. The best of her fiction is marked by a balance of ironic detachment and sympathetic compassion, as in "Big Blonde," which won the O. Henry Award for 1929 and is still her best-remembered and most frequently anthologized story. The best of Dorothy Parker is readily and compactly accessible in The Portable Dorothy Parker. Her own selection of stories and verse for the original edition of that compilation, published in 1944, remains intact in the revised edition, but included also are additional stories, reviews, and articles. Parker died of a heart attack at the age of 73 in 1967. In her will, she bequeathed her estate to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. foundation. Following King's death, her estate was passed on to the NAACP.
Brendan Gill is perhaps best known as the witty and urbane author of the New Yorker magazine's "Talk of the Town" column. Born on October 4, 1914 in Hartford, Conn., Gill graduated from Yale University in 1936 and immediately went to work for The New Yorker as a film and art critic. It was at the magazine that Gill was able to rub elbows with celebrities such as Cole Porter and Tallulah Bankhead, both of whom later became subjects of Gill's biographies. Gill's own memoir, Here at the New Yorker, is filled with reminiscence, humorous anecdotes, and the unforgettable cartoons that have made the magazine famous. Gill also wrote fiction and short stories, and his style is reflected in books such as Death in April, Other Poems and The Trouble of One House, for which he won a National Book Award in 1951 Brendan Gill died on December 27, 1997.