Death cannot quell the feisty spirit of Dorothy Parker.
For more than forty years, Mrs. Parker has been spurning the white light and wandering the famous halls of the Algonquin, drink in hand, searching for someone—anyone—who will keep her company on this side of eternity.
She may have found the perfect candidate in Ted Shriver, a brilliant literary voice of the 1970s, silenced early in a promising career by a devastating plagiarism scandal. He is now a recluse hiding away in the old hotel, waiting to die.
But when a young, ambitious TV producer enters the hotel in search of Shriver, she and Dorothy Parker begin to discover a host of secrets surrounding the life of the famous man—and why he seems as anxious to enter the beyond as Mrs. Parker is to avoid it.
*Cleveland Plain Dealer
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
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***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***
Copyright © 2015 Ellen Meister
“She is a combination of Little Nell and Lady Macbeth.”
— ALEXANDER WOOLLCOTT
Death was like a bowl of soup.
At least that’s how it felt to Dorothy Parker. One minute she was aware of a terrible pain radiating from the middle of her chest, and the next she was floating in a warm, brothy bath, where everything around her hovered at the same temperature as her body. She couldn’t tell where she began and the world left off.
Then she saw it—the white light. For a moment, she felt the pull, but caught herself in time. No thank you. Eternal happiness was simply not what she was cut out for. She would stay right here, wherever that was, and let darkness overtake her.
As if awaking from a dream, she opened her eyes to discover she was in the dimly lit tavern of the Algonquin Hotel, alone except for a familiar silhouette at the bar . . . and that damned white light hovering overhead.
“Mr. Benchley?” she said, though she would have known that full-cheeked profile anywhere. As usual, his hair was well oiled and his mustache neatly trimmed.
“I’ve been waiting for you.”
Dear, dear Mr. Benchley. She took a seat next to him, where a fresh gin and tonic—her drink—was on the bar before her.
“How I missed you,” she said. He was the most loyal friend she had ever known.
He looked at her, his eyes as tender and pained as ever. “I missed you, too,” he said.
“Am I dead?” she asked. Everything seemed so solid, so real.
“Afraid? I daresay it’s about time. Cheers.” She drank her cocktail and it felt exactly as it always did. How could this possibly be death? She had expected nothingness, a black eternal sleep. But perhaps this was the true heaven—sitting at a bar with her closest friend. She avoided looking into the light.
“Where’s Gertrude?” she asked, glancing around to see if his wife was lurking nearby.
He pointed upward.
“Yes, of course,” Mrs. Parker said. “Where else would she be? St. Gertrude Aquinas. Lecturing the angels, no doubt.”
“She was a good woman, Dot. Better than I deserved.”
She took a quick glance upward. “I’ll take good care of him, Gertrude!”
“She’s been waiting patiently for me,” he said, placing a hand on her arm.
“You’re not serious.”
He stared at her, his expression fixed. “She’s my wife.”
“But think of it, Fred,” she pleaded, using her nickname for him. “Eternity is a long time.”
“That’s why I didn’t mind staying here until you arrived. I knew the years would seem like a moment.”
She waited for him to say something else. But then, she had always felt like she was waiting for Mr. Benchley to say something else. Finally, she asked him for a cigarette.
“Sorry,” he said, patting his chest, “I’m out.”
“So it is hell.”
He shrugged, a wistfulness passing over his face. “We had a lot of good times here.”
“Strange,” she said. “How did we wind up in the Algonquin?”
“Remember that book we signed for Percy?”
She did. When Percy Coates, the hotel manager, had asked them to sign the special guest book that was supposed to offer eternity, he’d been so earnest they’d laughed but humored him. “So it worked. I’ll be damned. Where are the others?”
“Everyone from our group is gone,” he said, nodding toward the white light.
“The little shits. They couldn’t wait for me?”
“It’s a powerful draw, Mrs. Parker.”
“Did you get to see them?”
“Woollcott and Broun were here when I arrived. Then Ross showed up and later Mr. Sherwood. We had fun for a time, but they all wanted to go.”
“Did they ask about me?”
He smiled as if he knew she would ask. “Of course, it wasn’t a real party without you. We all thought you’d be here any day. Who knew you’d outlive us all?”
“But surely I’m not the last.”
“There are other signatures in the book, and I suppose they’ll pass through. But they weren’t in our crowd.”
“My damned luck. Always late to the party.”
“Finish your drink,” he said, “and we’ll go together.”
“Go?” She tsked. “Over my dead body.”
“That’s more or less the idea.”
“Leave if you must,” she said. “But I’m staying right here.”
“Now, Mrs. Parker. Don’t tell me you’re rejecting eternal peace.”
“What’s in it for me?”
He looked up, his tight brow softening as if in a trance. When he looked back at her, his eyes were wet. “Love. Can’t you sense it?”
She waved away his comment. “Where did love ever get me?”
“This is different. Your parents will be there.”
“Never cared for them.”
He took her hand. “Alan is there.”
“Did you have a head injury? Why would I want to reunite with my husband?”
“You loved each other.”
“He left me.”
“He killed himself.”
Mr. Benchley massaged his forehead and thought. At last he nodded and looked back into her eyes. “He was in a lot of pain, Dot.”
“Guess what,” she said. “Me, too.”
“I’m awake, aren’t I?”
He stood, finished the last sip of his drink, and put down his glass. “I’ve been here a long while. It’s time for me to go.”
She shrugged. “Go, then. What are you waiting for?”
“You sure you won’t change your mind?”
“Good-bye, Mr. Benchley. Send my best to Gertrude.”
He shook his head. “You’ll be lonely.”
She held up her drink. “That’s what this is for.”
Mr. Benchley kissed her on the forehead. “See you around, pal,” he said.
Just then, she heard the high-pitched yip of a small dog and looked down to see a familiar poodle trotting toward her. “Cliché!” she cried, remembering he had been in her lap when she signed the book, and that when Percy wasn’t looking she had pressed his paw onto the last page. If she was going to hang around for eternity, she had reasoned, she would want his company. How perfect that it worked. She bent over to scoop him up.
“Look, Fred!” she cried, but it was too late. Mr. Benchley was gone.
It was late—well past closing—and the Algonquin Hotel’s tavern was shadowy and still. Angel Ruiz hesitated at the doorway, but only for a second. So what if there was a strange shimmer below the one dim light on the wall? And who cared if the Haitian guys in the kitchen had sworn they’d seen le fantôme sitting by the bar late at night? It was his first day on the job and he refused to be scared. Besides, the staff at these old hotels always believed the places were haunted.
He clicked on the soft neon bulb over the bar and unlocked the cabinet. The drunk in room 1207—some famous writer in hiding, they said—had ordered three martinis and the night kitchen manager instructed Angel to mix and deliver them. “The old man,” she had promised, “tips big.”
Angel stopped and listened to the deserted quiet, feeling the silence deep inside his ears. He went back to work, gently placing what he needed on the bar.
After pouring the carefully measured gin and vermouth into the metal shaker, he held the lid tight and turned it over and back, over and back. He gave it one last shake, then filled the three fancy glasses he had placed on the tray.
The darkness played tricks on his eyes. Was that a swarm of gnats hovering near the bar or just floating dust particles? He blew them away and focused on his task.
Las aceitunas, he thought. Olives. He looked around and saw a mini refrigerator under the bar. He had to kneel to see inside and found a large round jar in the back, the green orbs floating in liquid like detached eyeballs.
Angel hated olives and hoped he wouldn’t have to fish them out with his fingers. As he rose, he was thinking about finding a fork he could use to pluck the slimy orbs from their cold bath and how his grandfather used to pop them in his mouth like candy. Disgusting.
And then, he saw something. The tiny swarm had grown. It was now a mass of swirling dust particles floating over one of the barstools. As he stared, transfixed, they took on a recognizable shape, joining together until they weren’t separate specks but one solid image.
The jar fell from his hand and crashed, shattering the silence. It was her—the phantom. And right before his eyes, she became a real woman, with dark impish eyes and a small hat.
Angel jumped back, almost slipping on the wet floor. He grabbed on to the bar and froze, unable to do anything but blink at the space that had been empty only seconds ago.
“Just as well,” she said, peering over the bar at the olives rolling across the floor. “He likes his martinis with a twist.”
He rubbed his eyes. She couldn’t be real, could she?
The apparition picked up one of the drinks he had just made and took a sip. “Not bad . . . Angel. You may have a future here.”
“You . . . you know my name?” A chill danced down his spine.
She pointed a dainty finger at his name tag.
“What do you . . . want from me?” he asked.
She tipped back the martini and finished it. Then she picked up another. “You’ll need to make more of these. Cheers.”
Angel watched as she sipped the drink, closing her eyes in delight. “I hope you have cigarettes in that pocket,” she said. “I’m positively desperate.”
“If you tell me they’re bad for my health, I may scream.”
Angel pulled a pack of Marlboros from his jacket, placed it on the bar, and stood back. She looked down at the cigarettes as if she expected him to do something. Finally, she extracted one and put it between her lips.
“A light?” she said.
He swallowed hard and took a disposable lighter from his pocket, but his hands were so damp in fear he couldn’t get it to ignite. He tried again and again.
“I have all the time in the world,” she said. “Literally.”
Finally, a short flame rose and he carefully leaned forward to light her cigarette. She took a long drag.
“Delightful,” she said, exhaling. She took another puff and blew smoke rings. Angel stared as she continued smoking and drinking. What was she?
The ghost flicked ashes into the empty martini glass, then shot him a glance and sighed, as if bored by his awe. Still smoking with her right hand, she held her left hand toward him, palm down. He looked at it, wondering what she wanted him to do.
“Go ahead,” she said.
“You’re wondering if I’m real,” she said. “So touch me.”
Her hand was small and feminine, with fingernails filed into points. Angel lightly poked it, hoping she was nothing but air, light, and dreams. But she was solid—flesh and blood.
“Now that we have that out of the way,” she said, “my request. You see that book over there, inside the case?” She pointed to the dim wall light, and Angel noticed that the shelf it illuminated held some kind of antique book inside a glass display box. “Please bring it here.”
He did as he was told, stepping over the olives to approach the shelf and examine the case. It was a heavy piece, with a mahogany platform and frame. The glass panels afforded a clear view of the book inside, which was open to a page of old-fashioned signatures written with the thin ink of a fountain pen. He lifted the hinged top, removed the book, and carried it back to her, placing it carefully on the bar.
“This,” she said, pointing over the open page, “is me.”
Angel scanned the names. They were all men except for one.
“Dorothy Parker?” he said.
“I don’t suppose you’ve heard of me?”
He shook his head.
“Lucky you,” she said. “Now, when you deliver the drinks to Mr. Shriver you will bring him this as well.”
“You want me to bring the book to him?”
“Am I not being clear?”
“No. I mean, yes. But why?”
“My dear,” she said, “where this book goes, I go. And I need to have a little chat with Ted Shriver. We are old acquaintances.”
“I’ll get in trouble.”
“Nonsense. You’ll come back in an hour and return the book to the shelf. No one will ever know. But first, clean up this nasty spill; it’s never a good idea to leave a mess behind. Trust me on that.”
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Dorothy Parker Drank Here:
"Meister's Dorothy Parker is just as sharp, witty and pleasantly mean as fans would expect. Her humanity shines through, though, along with her humor. Her obvious loneliness...make[s] this a surprisingly emotional novel. Not even death can keep Dorothy Parker down in this sad and funny story." Kirkus
"A lovely...imagining [of] the voice of Dorothy Parker with equal parts wit, heartbreak, and practicality." Booklist
"A quick, charming read that will delight Parker fans and stoke the curiosity of those unfamiliar with her great wit." Library Journal
Reading Group Guide
Heavenly peace? No, thank you. Dorothy Parker would rather wander the famous halls of the Algonquin Hotel, drink in hand, searching for someone, anyone, who will keep her company on this side of eternity.
After forty years she thinks she’s found the perfect candidate in Ted Shriver, a brilliant literary voice of the 1970s, silenced early in a promising career by a devastating plagiarism scandal. Now a prickly recluse, he hides away in the old hotel slowly dying of cancer, which he refuses to treat. If she can just convince him to sign the infamous guestbook of Percy Coates, Dorothy Parker might be able to persuade the jaded writer to spurn the white light with her. Ted, however, might be the only person living or dead who’s more stubborn than Parker, and he rejects her proposal outright.
When a young, ambitious TV producer, Norah Wolfe, enters the hotel in search of Ted Shriver, Parker sees another opportunity to get what she wants. Instead, she and Norah manage to uncover such startling secrets about Ted’s past that the future changes for all of them.
ABOUT ELLEN MEISTER
Ellen Meister has written five novels—including Farewell, Dorothy Parker and The Other Life—as well as numerous short stories and essays. She teaches creative writing at Hofstra University Continuing Education, and does public speaking about her books and other writing-related issues. Ellen lives on Long Island with her husband and three children.
- In the first chapters of Dorothy Parker Drank Here, how did you feel about Ted Shriver’s decision to spend his last days alone at the Algonquin Hotel? How did your feelings change by the end of the novel? Do you think anyone else, such as Peter Salzberg or Parker, had a responsibility to try to change his mind?
- Why do you think Ellen Meister chose to include flashbacks in which notables pass through on their way to the afterlife? What did these scenes reveal about Dorothy Parker?
- Both Ted Shriver and his ex-wife, Audrey, did things they later regretted. Do you think that one of them should be blamed more than the other? Did you, as a reader, forgive them by the end of the novel?
- What do you think was Dorothy Parker’s real reason for getting herself so deeply involved in Norah Wolfe’s desperate search for Ted Shriver? Does she harbor altruistic intentions?
- Norah Wolfe’s mother plays an important role in the book even though she’s never actually present in the action of the plot. How is she a different kind of ghost than Dorothy Parker? How are they similar?
- What role does white light play in Dorothy Parker Drank Here and how does it affect the decisions of everyone at the Algonquin Hotel? Do you think it means different things to Dorothy Parker, Ted Shriver, and Norah Wolfe, for example?
- Ted Shriver kept Audrey’s shameful secret for decades despite the devastating consequences to his career. Why do you think he was so willing to be branded a plagiarist? Why didn’t he see his sacrifice as noble?
- The theme of family—both real and symbolic—resonates throughout Dorothy Parker Drank Here. How does this play out between Norah Wolfe and Dorothy Parker? Between Wolfe and her coworkers? What other family issues are explored?
- There’s a great deal of implied history in the friendship between Ted Shriver and Peter Salzberg. What does their history tell you about Ted that isn’t revealed otherwise?
- The end of the novel, including Ted Shriver’s death, is extremely emotional. Did you feel like the book had a happy ending or was it something else? And if something else, what would you call it?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is a roller coaster ride. Laugh out loud funny one minute and so sad the next. It has enough plot twists to make a mystery writer envious. It has a lot of subplots but everything gets resolved in the end. I have found a new favorite author.
I love this book.... I have read Dorothy Parker's books and have enjoyed all of the books.... Joanne
Dorothy Parker’s ghost is in a ‘phase’, presented with the decision to cross over, or to return to a middle ground, a location familiar and much loved, to bring others along in the journey. I loved the premise of this story, as Parker’s wit is clearly presented, edgy and on point. The acerbic-tongued writer was known for her poetry, her short stories, and her ability to present the cut-direct. Caustic and cutting, she was pointed and direct in her criticism and writing, and often her words were informed by or flavored with her political leanings. She is, however, responsible for some incredibly astute, honest and lasting one liners about social hypocrisies and authoritarian figures. Some 40 years after the Round Table disbanded, Parker is still in the Algonquin, attached to the guest book she signed so many years ago. Without a singular loved one to bring over, Parker is determined to stay in the heart of life as she knew it: and where better than the Algonquin. Ted Shriver had interviewed Parker years earlier, in the beginning of his career, now he is living in a room at the hotel, in semi-disgrace, dying of a brain tumor. Accused of plagiarism, his career as a novelist has been cut short, and with his life in decline, Parker wants him to sign the infamous guest book and join her. Ted isn’t quite sure this is the decision for him, he’d much rather drown his sorrows and pain in drink, alone. Enter Norah Wolfe, a producer for a failing television show, she’s become obsessed with Shriver and his writing, and wants to use an interview with him where he answers the charges about plagiarism on camera. Of course, Shriver wants nothing to do with her either, and here is where Dorothy hatches her plan…. Here begins an uneasy, but highly entertaining quest full of hijinks and liberally laced with twists, discoveries and humor. Norah is a bit of a nervous Nellie, but she gains in confidence from Parker’s devil-may-care attitude, as the two are trying to convince Shriver to play along with their plans. This is a wonderful mash up of humor, mystery, psychological manipulations and literary bon mots that induce snickers to full-on belly laughs. A wonderful story! I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
It's great to find an enjoyable novel these days that makes you laugh and feel good, and this book is one of those. Breezy fun all the way through, though with some heavy themes that can make you think. The lighter the style, the harder it is to write, and Ellen Meister is so good she makes it look easy. You get lots of time with Dorothy Parker (always a plus) and some other famous folks, along with a new cast of characters who entertain, and a side-eye look at the New York publishing and television biz. We have the dilemma of a brilliant but disgraced writer with some major problems, and a lot of discussion about moving on- either with life or the afterlife. Highly recommended.
This prequel to FARWELL, DOROTHY PARKER goes the original one better: in addition to mastering Dorothy Parker’s wit and prickly charm, other members of the Algonquin Round Table put in an appearance as they drift through the Purgatory of the famous hotel’s guest book. Once again, Mrs. Parker finds herself in the midst of the central character’s existential crisis, and with her characteristic penchant for sarcasm and mischief somehow manages to turn things around. Those who enjoyed the first novel will be delighted that Ellen Meister has once again freed her unlikely heroine from the Algonquin guest book and captured her in the pages of DOROTHY PARKER DRANK HERE. Part of Meister’s gift is a spot-on ear for dialog. She peoples this novel (as she did FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER) with fascinating characters, each of whom speaks with a distinctive and completely convincing voice. If, as I did, you loved FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER, you will be grateful to see Mrs. Parker back in perilous action.
Dollycas’s Thoughts All of Dorothy Parker’s friends and enemies see the white light and follow it quite quickly to the great beyond. Not Dorothy, she plans to stick around as long as she can but she does get lonely. Enter Ted Shriver who has come to the Algonquin Hotel to meet his maker. His writing career ended years ago when he was accused of plagiarism. He has nobody to stick around for, he just wants to be left alone to die, but Dorothy has other ideas. This is the second book Ellen Meister has wrote featuring the one of a kind Dorothy Parker. Each book stands on its own and are fantastic reads. She has captured the woman to a tee and throw in plenty of Dorothy’s zingers that I just loved. Dorothy Parker was a formidable woman in her time and the perfect leading lady/ghost. If you happen tosee her across the room or walking down the street you would never know she was a spirit. Her clothes have come around and are back in style. She does have a few limits as to where she can go and when but you have to read the book to find out those details. As in the first book, Dorothy’s appearance does alter the world around her and the people she meets. Meister fills the story with twists, turns, humor and a lot of heart. Parker’s fearlessness shines in these pages. The secondary character of Ted Shriver and TV producer, Norah Wolfe are both strong characters too. Dorothy brings everyone together as only she can. Things are not easy but Dorothy doesn’t give up. Caution – have a tissue handy for the ending. This was a really quick read for me. I was totally engaged the whole entire way.
One finds a very special book in the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan in 2007. The signatures of famous writers and artists are listed and those who sign it get to stick around their earthly life, in Spirit that is, as long as they wish until they yield to the “white light” awaiting their final entry and promising peace and love with those who have gone before them. It’s hard to resist that light for most of those entered on that list, but Dorothy Parker has no problem with that. She’s fiercely focused to stick around forever. When the book is closed, no one can see her; when the book is open, she can be seen and even felt by the observer. Her signature in the book guarantees her permanent residence at the famous hotel and free drinks in the bargain. Now, she’s on a mission! Norah Wolfe is an assistant producer for a declining, actually failing, TV show, thinks if she can get an interview with Ted Shriver, a 1970s famous author who is now a recluse, the TV show will be saved. Ted Shriver, however, is dying of a brain tumor and still punishing himself for his behavior that led his ex-wife to insert plagiarized paragraphs into Shriver’s last published novel, which all but destroyed his literary fame. He knows Audrey Shriver did the dastardly deed out of pure, unadulterated hate because of his adultery but he refuses to make that information public. This then is the plot line – to get Ted to expose Audrey in public, on air in Norah’s show. He’s not buying. It also turns out he could save himself with some risky brain surgery but he’s not buying that either. While the plot is simple, what really makes this novel funny and special are the multiple scenes with fanciful, ironic, and spirited dialogue between Dorothy, Ted, Norah, and later Audrey and her friend. Dorothy’s sense of humor is droll but comic. She’s a better investigator than Norah and Dorothy has a keen perception of what to say and do at just the right moment. The outcome, however, is far from what is expected. Intriguing indeed! Dorothy Parker Drank Here: A Novel is a grand read created by a clever, talented writer, Ellen Meister, whose novel is, again, a reader’s delight! Great read!
A story about a ghost who doesn’t follow the white light and continues to hang out at the Algonquin Hotel where she frequently met her friends is not my usual read. Yet, I could not put Dorothy Parker Drank Here down. I love that Dorothy was a quirky, mouthy, noisy ghost that could only take form when the guestbook she signed is left open. She held her own, somehow always got her way, and drank a ton of alcohol all while making “friends” and causing havoc at the hotel. It is such a great story. I did not find this to be a quick read. It had a lot of information, a lot of deals, and a lot of fun. There were promises made, promises broke, and promises kept. It seemed every character had a secret, whether they shared the secret with the others was all part of the story. There is so much going on in this story, so much fun. I am anxious to check out more of the Dorothy Parker series. While this is not the first book in this series, they do not have to be read in order. This is not the first book that I have read in this series and I do not feel like I was missing out on anything by not reading the first book.
Ellen Meister's _Dorothy Parker Drank Here_ is wonderful. These Algonquin visits just get better and better. I love foreshadowing so subtle that I feel as if I discovered a truth all by myself. ¿ I am filled now with the “stupidity of hope” that all can be well, and an inordinately wonderful enjoyment at seeing my name among the many fans in the acknowledgements. What a wonderful list, the perfect antidote to the trolls of this world. Words of wisdom, "we're all damaged. The tragedy is letting it define you." Let's not. I read until midnight, only to be drawn back to consciousness at 4 a.m., dreaming about a book, on a long-ago plane trip, kept from me for the whole flight by a woman who stole my seat, sat on my book, and denied that there ever was a book . . . appropriate to dream of a missing book when so much of this wonderful plot depends on an often-missing journal. Such a rewarding book! I'm already craving the next one.