Ellen Meister is the author of three novels and creator of the Facebook page for writer Dorothy Parker, who was known for her ascerbic wit and zingy one-liners. Meister’s new novel, “Farewell, Dorothy Parker,” is about a timid movie critic who channels Parker when she needs courage. Here’s how it begins:
Violet Epps stood before the maître d’ in the lobby lounge of the Algonquin Hotel, waiting to be noticed. She cleared her throat and he looked up, glancing right past her.
“Who’s next?” he said.
Me, she thought. Me. But before she could summon the courage to get the single syllable across her tongue, a young man behind her spoke up.
“We have a reservation,” he said, putting his arm around the pretty girl at his side. “Dr. Walker.”
Doctor my ass, Violet thought. Guy was maybe twenty-three years old, probably a waiter who just walked over from his afternoon class at the Actors Studio.
Violet closed her eyes and tried to find the gumption she needed to speak up and tell the maître d’ she was there first. But as usual, social anxiety paralyzed her vocal cords. Too bad she couldn’t channel Dorothy Parker the way she did at work.
Violet Epps was a thirty-seven-year-old movie critic whose withering zingers were inspired by the famous wit who had made the Algonquin Hotel her home for many years. Dorothy Parker was Violet’s hero, and not just for her scathing reviews, clever jokes, quotable poetry and insightful short stories, but for her potent social courage. The diminutive Mrs. Parker, as she was often called, was so commanding that even her friends thought of her as larger than life.
So far, Violet had been successful in summoning her muse only when writing her movie reviews. In her personal life, she was held captive by her own timidity. Today, she hoped, would be different.