Apparently, once, Dorothy Parker had the misfortune of insulting Spain in Ernest Hemingway’s presence. It’s weird how powerful men often come off as being unmitigated bastards in these tales, but I mean, I don’t know. Hemingway, man. Hemingway was kind of a bastard and he probably wouldn’t mind being labeled as such.
He responded to the fact that Dorothy said she did not have a good time on her recent vacation to Spain by deciding that he disliked Dorothy Parker intensely. Aware of her recent suicide attempt, Hemingway wrote a poem entitled “To The Tragic Poetess – Nothing in her life became her like her almost leaving it.” He proceeded to read it aloud at a party hosted by Archibald MacLeish.
O thou who with a safety razor blade
a new one to avoid infection
Slit both thy wrists
the scars defy detection
Who over-veronaled to try and peek
into the shade
Of that undistant country from whose bourne
no traveller returns who hasn’t been there.
But always vomited in time
And bound your wrists up
To tell how you could see his little hands
You’d waited months too long
that was the trouble
But you loved dogs and other people’s children
and hated Spain where they are cruel to donkeys
Hoping the bulls would kill the matadors
the national tune of Spain was Tea for Two
you said and don’t let anyone say Spain to you -
You’d seen it with the Seldes
One Jew, his wife and a consumptive
you sneered your way around
Through Aragon, Castille and Andalucia
the Jewish cheeks of your plump ass
in Holy Week in Seville
forgetful of our Lord and of His passion
And returned, your ass intact, to Paris
To write more poems for the New Yorker.
People at the party understandably thought that a poem making fun of Dorothy Parker’s abortion and suicide attempts was kind of amazingly awful. Donald Stewart – the satirist who’d been the model for the very funny Bill Gorton in Hemigway’s The Sun Also Rises – told Hemingway that the poem was “viciously unfunny and unfair.” Hemingway proceeded to explain that Dorothy Parker had once borrowed a typewriter from him and had failed to return it. Donald Stewart told Hemingway that he no longer regarded Hemingway as a friend.
If this makes you want to read Donald Stewart, you can find his parody of history books, here. (Donald also acted in Holiday with Katharine Hepburn, wrote The Philadelphia Story screenplay, protested the Red Scare and Vietnam, and shortly before he died, assisted writing the Woody Allen film Love and Death. He was just an all around cool guy).