Saturday, June 27, 2009

"The Dud Avocado"

I couldn't sleep the other night, so I turned on the light and began reading Elaine Dundy's novel, "The Dud Avocado." At three in the morning, usually a glum hour, I found myself laughing.

Dundy, who lived in Paris after the second world war, reverses the usual dismal portrayal of the betrayed innocent adrift in France.  When her young heroine, Sally Jay Gorce, tries to ditch her first lover, he pleads with her to stay.  She's astonished: "It was all too ludicrous.  For God's sake, I should have been the abandoned one.  I mean I was the one seduced, I was the virgin wasn't I?  Surely it was up to Teddy to do the discarding after he'd taken my 'all.'  I'd read enough books and listened to enough college girls moaning in the spring to know that."  So refreshing after reading Jean Rhys's novels about lost betrayed waifs in Paris!

About the discarded Teddy: he purrs with "fur all over his smile."

Dundy is peppery about class.  Sally Jay describes the "International Set": "they kept inviting you to places; they invited me to a different place on the average of one every five minutes, but I discovered there were two rules governing this: first it had to be a place you'd never been to, like 'What, you've never seen the Blue Grotto?  I must take you there on the yacht this summer'; and second, it was understood that each invitation canceled the previous one."

Dundy writes with graceful glee, this about the man Sally Jay will marry: "Finally, catching sight of me through the dresser mirror, he slowly drew out--one from each pocket--my earrings, and smiling at me through the glass, arranged them like fallen angels, one on each side, to encompass a space the exact width of my face.  Then he took off his trousers."

Dundy wrote fiction, biography, and memoir.  It's delightful to find her.  Soon I'll have a pile of her books on my night table.  If I wake up in the middle of the night, I'll read her and hear her bright funny voice.


  1. Great to get these recommendations of writers I haven't heard of. (Am also goin to order Shirley Hazzard's Naples book from library.)

  2. There was a copy of The Dud Avocado in my parents' bookshelf, alongside Tales of the South Pacific, Appointment in Samara, and an anthology of Robert Benchley's writing. The book jacket is as familiar as the living room furniture of my childhood; I never read it, though!
    Now i will...(I've done Jean Rhys; I like your comment).

  3. NMJ, Susan: I like the way the word gets passed! Just when I think I've run out of books, there's another good one.

  4. Mmj and others might like Transit of Venus by Shirleu Hazzard. My favorite.