…Elaine Dundy”s “The Dud Avacado.”
I’d first heard of her a few years ago from my expatriate writer friend, R, who no longer speaks to me because of political differences. He had actually recommended “My Old Man and Me,” but I could never find that. I picked “Avacado” off a book store shelf a couple times but never got past the first page. Then I read a review of a memoir by her daughter from her marriage to Kenneth Tynan, Tracy, which got me interested again.
Dundy, I learned, was the sister of Shirley Clark, the director of the film of “The Cool World,” which had been one of my favorite novels when I was in high school. And Dundy’s marriage to Tynan was rife with alcohol, drugs, affairs, and violence, consensual and non-.
“Avacado,” Dundy’s first book, a comic autobiographical novel, published in 1958, about a young American girl, Sally Ann Gorse, on the loose in France, is not nearly as exciting. (One of the problems with “Bad Boy” — or “Girl” — novels before Henry Miller got legal is that they just couldn’t be that incorrigible.) The first half, set in Paris, barely held my attention. Things improved when Gorse fell in with a film crew in the south of France, and as it moved toward its conclusion, it was fine.
Mainly though I found the boo of sociological interest. Gorse reminded me of Sally Bowles or Holly Golightly, but she was written by another woman, not a gay male. I couldn’t recall any other women of the time creating a similar character but there probably were some. Jane Bowles? Diane DiPrima? I suppose that’s why “Avacado” became the “cult novel” it’s cover proclaims. It was a guide for young women who wanted to be an “adventuress.”
And I bet Eve Babitz, whose books of the early ’70s I really liked, read it a couple times.