February 19, 2013

Literary ghost mentors movie critic

By Ellen Meister
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For readers well-versed in the lore of American literary legends, it is no secret that the late, great writer Dorothy Parker did not suffer fools gladly, be it a louche ex-lover, or a book reviewer relying on a tired cliché like the one above.

In fact, it is with immense courage that in her latest novel, Farewell, Dorothy Parker, author Ellen Meister has resurrected the ghost of Mrs. Parker as the acerbic, supernatural alter ego to the novel’s neurotic, albeit loveable, heroine, Violet Epps. Never mind that her poison-pen film reviews and razor-sharp wit are both feared and revered by Hollywood insiders; at heart, Violet is a quivering mess, paralyzed by her debilitating insecurities, stemming from a dysfunctional relationship with her late sister and the aftershocks of a painful divorce.

While Violet comes off as a bit of a shallow wimp at the start of the novel (she brings her yappy little dog, Woollcott, with her everywhere, à la Paris Hilton), readers who remain patient will soon be rewarded—in particular, with the appearance of Parker, whose irrepressible spirit is trapped and then released from the pages of an old guest book at the historic Algonquin Hotel.

Without spoiling any plot surprises, after Violet is visited by Parker’s friendly and oft-inebriated spirit, she finds the inspiration to take control of her own lackluster love life, and above all finds the strength to engage in a custody battle for her beloved niece, Delaney, who was orphaned after her parents died in a car crash.

Of course, Violet never quite acquires her ghostly mentor’s pugnacious spirit and, despite her success as a movie critic, does not seem to possess Parker’s immense literary gifts either. Still, Violet is by far a kinder and less self-absorbed scribe, and in the end, appears to escape the sad fate of so many great writers like Parker, whose words remain immortal, yet who were haunted by drink, despair and depression during their tumultuous lifetimes.

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Farewell, Dorothy Parker

Farewell, Dorothy Parker

By Ellen Meister
ISBN 9780399159077

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