Tues. Paris Reading Rec: THE DUD AVOCADO by Elaine Dundy

The only dud about Elaine Dundy's 1958 novel THE DUD AVOCADO is, for me, the title. It refers to one Sally Jay Gorce, the book's 20-something narrator, who is anything but a dud. Not for one page, one paragraph, one word. Gorce's romp through Paris (and various neighboring geographies) is frequently funny, occasionally moving, but steadily zany. Modern reviewers compare her to Bridget Jones or Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City, and there's plenty of sex and eye-rolling and men behaving ineptly. It should all lead to the readerly equivalent of a hangover but, with the exception of that title, none of it feels forced. Dundy's Gorce is vital and vulnerable both with an eviscerating eye that she trains on everyone -- including herself.

Dundy, a onetime actress, said that she based Gorce's adventures on her own. In an afterword to the 2007 NYRB edition, she writes, "When people ask me how autobiographical the book is I say all the impulsive, outrageous things my heroine does, I did. All the sensible things she did, I made up." (It's worth reading the afterword just to see her recount all the raves she received: Irwin Shaw, Terry Southern, Gore Vidal, Ernest Hemingway...Groucho Marx?)

There's not much of a plot to speak of--it's more of a this-happened-then-that affair, until the end, when a wide variety of loose ends are tied up in various nutty ways. But that's not what you read it for. You read it to find out what happens to a young woman, robbed of her passport, who has to stay in Paris until its found.  Whether or not you have your own passport, Dundy's Paris is worth a visit. 

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