Sunday, December 25, 2011

J.J. Murphy

J.J. Murphy, an award-winning health care writer in Pennsylvania, has also been a long-time Dorothy Parker fan.

She started writing The Algonquin Round Table Mysteries after the birth of twin daughters, as an escape from toddler television.

Earlier this month I asked Murphy what she was reading. Her reply:
I love Tina Fey. I love the show 30 Rock. So, I was over the moon when her book Bossypants came out. It’s not exactly an autobiography and it’s not exactly a book of essays. It’s something in between. Personal vignettes, maybe? I don’t care. I loved the book.

(To be perfectly honest, I listened to the audiobook on CD, which is read by Fey herself. That was great. If you could get Mark Twain to read Huckleberry Finn for you, you’d do it, right? That’s not to say that Bossypants is any Huckleberry Finn, but you get the idea.)

Fey talks about growing up being a not-blonde and having body hair like a werewolf. She talks about her early days in the comedy circuit and her battles as one of the few women writers (and the first woman head writer) on Saturday Night Live. She talks just a little about 30 Rock—but not enough about working with Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan. (I’d have liked more behind-the-scenes anecdotes about that. Maybe she’s saving it for a sequel.)

One of the things that draws me to Tina Fey is that she’s a lot like my real-life protagonist Dorothy Parker. Both are witty writers who’ve made it in a “man’s world.” Both have an intellectual, subversive, wicked sense of humor. Both are pretty, petite, brown-haired and brown-eyed. Only one has affected U.S. politics by her portrayal of a vice-presidential candidate, but the other’s collected works have never gone out of print in more than 50 years.

There’s another interesting, unknown connection: 30 Rock itself. Dorothy Parker—cocktail in hand and quip on her lip—frequented a speakeasy that once stood on the site where Rockefeller Center (the GE Building specifically) now stands. So, if 30 Rock had a time-traveling elevator, you could get on with Tina Fey, press “down,” and wind up drinking bootleg booze with Dorothy Parker. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Instead of inventing all these silly “apps” for the iPhone, scientists should be hard at work on that time-travel elevator!
Visit J.J. Murphy's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: The Algonquin Round Table Mysteries.

--Marshal Zeringue