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Saturday, April 22, 2006

I think I knew that Dorothy Parker left her estate to Martin Luther King Jr., but I am sure I didn't know that her executor was Lillian Hellman. Funny how Hellman said so many fine things ("I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashion," is just for starters) and was, at the same time such a competely reprehensible person. I always thought the libel suit she brought against Mary McCarthy was evil and wrong, but I have tried to think of her as being like the person who wrote the wonderful introduction to Dashell Hammett's "Collected Stories"-- the person that Hammett said Nora Charles was based on. It is difficult to reconcile that picture with her actual behavior. It seems like "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'," was more than an apercu. This morning's piece on NPR really shook me-- Hellman was worse than careless, worse than mendacious. She was a active force for ill who still somehow managed to say the right things. An interesting sort poison, I guess, wholesome if left on the shelf, toxic as an aquaintence or a friend. I don't know now whether I want to re-read "The Group" or "The Children's Hour" first.

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