WHEN AMERICANS STILL WENT TO PARIS…(Sunday Reading: 2/3/19)

…for something besides vacations.

I’m finally getting around to reading The Dud Avacado, Elaine Dundy’s 1958 entry in the madcap-American-heroine-loose-in-Paris genre. I suspect a lot that is cliched now was fresh, perhaps even innovative, when she wrote it. I’m liking it all the same because Dundy’s style doesn’t grate and hasn’t aged. No one under thirty could play the part convincingly now, but that only proves how fast the culture has collapsed. A generation ago, Meg Ryan or Reese Witherspoon or Jennifer Aniston could have had a field day with it. Renee Zellweger did, in fact, have a field day when Helen Fielding recast the attitude and nationality for working-class Brits in the Bridget Jones series (thin disguises all, I now realize).  It would have been a career-maker for a different kind of career if Christina Applegate had been the right age in 1958 (or if somebody in Hollywood had the wit the write a good script for her in 1998).

The chance is flown now, but the book, at least, remains, and it’s a good one that might turn great before it’s through. Dundy will be familiar to Elvis fans as the author of Elvis and Gladys, one of the best books on Elvis and the best on his relationship with his mother.

There could be few better ways to spend a Sunday than relaxing with this:

In an atmosphere of open hostility, I gobbled up my sandwich and hot chocolate as fast as I could; the hot chocolate burning my tongue, a revelation burning my soul. I had always assumed that a certain sense of identity would be strong enough within me to communicate itself to others. I now saw this assumption was false. Tout supplement, in a tarts’ bar, I looked like a tart. I tried to cheer myself up by thinking that after all this was really a very good thing for an actress. But it was depressing, anyway. Not so much for the thing of looking like a prostitute. I mean, except for the inconvenience of the moment, I found that rather thrilling, but the whole episode was forcing me to remember something that I’m always trying to forget and that is, that in a library as well, I’m always being taken for a librarian.

(The Dud Avocado, Elaine Dundy, 1958)