The Dud Avocado – Elaine Dundy
NYRB Classics, 2007
(first published 1958)
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The Dud Avocado is about the adventures of a young American girl in Paris called Sally Jay Gorce. She slowly discovers her freedom in the unrestrained environment while she associates with other young Americans and artists. Sally is discovering her freedom: she dyes her hair pink, she walks around in an evening dress before lunch, she has sexual encounters with several man for whom she does not necessarily have any feelings. She feels empowered, but is also clearly a little lost and scatter brained. And while as a reader you can appreciate her independence, you are at the same time a little apprehensive of some of the people she becomes entangled with.
Last year, Bina highly recommended this title. And I admit, I had high expectations when I started this book. Maybe that is why I was not completely convinced. Yes, Sally Jay Gorce makes astute observations, that are also very humourous. Take these three observations, for example. Who can resist smiling and nodding vigorously while reading them?
“they were most of them so violently individualistic as to be practically interchangeable.”
“the question actors most often get asked is how they can bear saying the same things over and over again night after night, but God knows the answer to that is, don’t we all anyway; might as well get paid for it.”
“The vehemence of my moral indignation surprised me. Was I beginning to have standards and principles, and, oh dear, scruples? What were they, and what would I do with them, and how much were they going to get in my way?”
Sally Jay Gorce is a lively, witty and very loveable heroine. But I admit, I got a little tired of her after a while. I struggled through the middle part and it was only in the last 40 pages or so did I begin to appreciate the story again. But my hesitant liking of this story may also be due to the time at which I read it. I can imagine reading this by the poolside with a lot more pleasure than in the little hours left in between writing a thesis.
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