Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Dud Avocado, Elaine Dundy

This took me ages to finish. I was completely prepared to be entertained and I was, at times, by the clever language in the book. The story is full of hilarious one liners but weak on plot. I kept waiting and waiting for something to happen and nothing did. It was just a catalog of Sally Jay’s adventures in the Parisian demimonde sprinkled with moments of hilarity or comments on her desire to really feel alive.

Sally is an aspiring actress and general free spirit who wants to experience life in every possible way. It’s full of descriptions of characters and places in 1950’s Paris. Just when I could hardly keep reading anymore a plot did appear but it was creepy and just reinforced my preconceived notions about why it’s not a good idea to live with no morals and constraints on your behavior (hint: the man you think you are in love with might turn out to be a pimp who steals your passport to trap you). I liked the last 15 pages or so best of all. Sally’s story regains its madcap innocence and almost takes on an Auntie Mame-like quality. She gets her happy ending and it is completely frothy and implausible… which about sums up the book.

Some more quotes to remember:

pg. 53

“Tell me something, tell me exactly how we would live. This isn’t just idle curiosity. It’s difficult to explain, but I just somehow feel that I never really have lived; that I never really will live-exist or whatever- in the sense that other people do. It drives me crazy. I was terribly aware of it all those nights waiting for you in the Ritz bar looking around at what seemed to be real grown-up lives. I just find everybody else’s life surrounded by plate glass. I mean I’d like to break through it just once and actually touch one.”

pg. 55

“I reflected wearily that it was not easy to be a Woman in these stirring times. I said it then and I say it now: it just isn’t our century.”


“Was I fulfilling my childhood dreams? Well I’d certainly stayed out late and eaten what I liked. And I was meeting people I hadn’t been introduced to. That was for sure.”

pg. 105

“I soon realized that one of the most important things to find while working in the theatre was someone to giggle with. To find someone to giggle with I place just below finding someone to flirt with and just above the ability to knit.”

pg. 117

“I am no longer astonished at the lubricity of these old biddies.”

pg. 119

“Faggotry here reaches almost pyrotechnical heights.”

pg. 140

“There’d always seemed to me something so dirty-sweatered and dirndl-skirted about living with a man you’re not married to.”

pg. 149

“I’ve never had such a dazzling effect on anybody, even in my own mind.”


“Hated France when I first got over here. Got on the train at Le Havre and looked out of the window and thought it looked so much like America, I wanted to cry. The scenery flying past, the hills and barns and cows, were just the sort of things you keep coming across through a train window in the States. The Untrained Eye, I told myself, training it enough to see that all the signs were written in French, at the same time letting the untrained nose get its first exotic whiff of garlic from my traveling companions, and the untrained stomach its first attack of French dysentery. But still, these were the only differences. I asked myself finally what did I expect France to look like? No answer.

pg. 160

“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.”

top photo from nylonmagazine


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