Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Members Of The Round Table

No doubt, there are a vast number of great writer kinships and associations these days, both in the real and cyber worlds. Still, many will agree that it was the legendary Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel here in New York City in the early 1900s, that clearly set the standard for literary "style" and wit long beyond its duration, and well into this very day.

After World War I, magazine writers Robert Benchley and Robert E. Sherwood lunched regularly at the hotel, located at that time just a few doors down from Vanity Fair, where they both worked. Throughout the 1920s, Algonquin owner, Frank Case, generously treated the talented but low paid writers to free celery and popover snacks and provided them with their own table and waiter. Thereby, guaranteeing their daily return visits. The group eventually expanded to a core membership that included writers such as Edna Ferber, Peggy Wood, Franklin P. Adams, George S. Kaufman, Heywood Broun, and Marc Connelly.

Also among these great notables of the day was Dorothy Parker (1893-1967), whose poems and short stories will always be characterized for their biting humor and sardonic flair. Born in West End, New Jersey, Parker was a drama and literary critic for Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines until striking out on her own as a freelance writer. Her writings dealt with, for the most part, the frustrations and contradictions of modern everyday living. Her books of verse in the 1930s included Death And Taxes and Not So Deep As A Well. She also wrote the short story collections Laments For The Living and After Such Pleasures. Her book titled Constant Reader (posthumously published, 1970) is a compilation of book reviews she wrote for the New Yorker Magazine from 1927 to 1933 under the pseudonym "Constant Reader."

Most of the Round Table members were staunch critics to say the least, and as they lunched, they exchanged ideas and gossip that managed to influence writers from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway. Another interesting note, is that Harold Ross, editor and friend of the Round Table, created the well-known New Yorker Magazine and secured funding for it at the Algonquin just prior to the magazine's debut in February of 1925.

This would also explain why, today, each Algonquin Hotel room guest still receives -- a complimentary copy of the magazine.


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