11 May 2008

RIP Elaine Dundy

I've written here about how I just finished the book The Dud Avocado. It wasn't easy to get through, and parts of it were flawed, but overall I thought that the portrayal of a young girl aching to just LIVE, LIVE, LIVE was extremely accurate and poignant. The New York Times called Sally Jay Gorce a precursor to Isadora Wing (agree) and Carrie Bradshaw (not so much) and compares her to one of her contemporaries in "fictional characterdom," Holly Golightly. Sally Jay is selfish, wild, and impetuous, but those are the characteristics of a teenager who has been cooped up in suburbia and is suddenly released into the Real World. Masterful sentences include: “A rowdy bunch on the whole, they were most of them so violently individualistic as to be practically interchangeable.” “It’s amazing how right you can sometimes be about a person you don’t know; it’s only the people you do know who confuse you.” “Frequently, walking down the streets in Paris alone, I’ve suddenly come upon myself in a store window grinning foolishly away at the thought that no one in the world knew where I was at just that moment.”
If Sally Jay were a man, I'm sure that her whirlwind life, casual attitude to sex, and urge to soak up life whatever the cost would be a non-issue. Hello, Kerouac (I think I've already written here how much I hate the Beats, but whatever, there's always room for more). A woman saying what she actually thinks? A woman having the same urges that a man has?? SHOCKING!!
So while on a whole I can't rave about The Dud Avocado, I appreciate it immensely. I would recommend that it be included in high school literature courses so that girls can have a female counterpart to Holden Caulfield (another "hero" whom I dislike!). And I feel like overall the novel was a breath of fresh air, not of shallowness and selfishness, but of youth and beauty (to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald...there's something a bit Daisy-esque about Sally Jay, isn't there??).
So thank you, Elaine, for paving the way for literature that shows woman not as cookie cutters, housewives, whores, or the secondary character thrown in for romantic interest. Thanks for Sally Jay, and thanks for freeing us from the pedastals and dusty corners of the past and bringing us into the light of the Champs Elysees.

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