The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

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I find I always have to write something on a steamed mirror. Only this time, I couldn’t think of anything to write. So I just wrote my own name, over and over again.

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy is the story of Sally Jay Gorce and her time spent in Paris in her early 20’s. From a well-to-do family, she started running away in her early teens, intent on seeing the world and experiencing all there is to experience. One day her super rich uncle takes her aside and promises her that if she quits running away and graduates college he will pay for her to travel the world for two whole years. So Sally quits running away, graduates from college and heads over to France.

Sally begins by telling us all about how she is this forgetful, clumsy, dreamy girl. She’s much too quirky and deep for anyone else to fully comprehend. Did you just roll your eyes? But she also leads this really exciting, wild life. Sally is so into experiencing the world that she solely hangs out with rich American ex-pats posing as starving artists. Did you roll your eyes again? And she is so spontaneous, she just picks up and travels down to the south of France on a whim! Which is exactly what she should have been doing all along if she wants to experience life in a mere two years.

The beginning of the book led me to believe that this was a coming of age novel, and that soon she would become a much more relatable figure, so I read on… waiting… and waiting. But the transformation never happened. I think to fit into the ‘coming of age’ category some sort of lesson has to be learned to catapult you from the self-absorbed young adult stage to the more worldly, aware adult stage. That doesn’t happen in this story. Sally starts out as an insipid, ego-centric rich girl and ends the story the exact same way. Had I not been aware that this was a semi-autobiographical account, I maybe could have mildly enjoyed it as satire.

After the novel was published Dundy said, “All the impulsive, outrageous things my heroine does, I did. All the sensible things she did, I made up.” Perhaps at the time her life did seem wild and crazy for a huge lame-o. I’m sure each of us has tried to relate a hilarious story to a friend and quickly realized it’s not so amusing in the retelling. Realizing this we stop and say, “I can’t explain. You just had to be there.” That’s pretty  much what this book consisted of, but instead of having the good sense to shut up and stop the story she takes it a step further and publishes her worthless, lack-luster memories.

To try and understand why this novel was such a success at the time I decided to do a little research and found her Wikipedia page, where I found this quote, “Around this time Tynan (her husband) started to insist on flagellating his wife…” Now I don’t want it to sound like I’m in any way supporting spousal abuse because I absolutely do not, but after I read that I knew exactly where this guy was coming from. Upon finishing the book there’s nothing more I’d like to do than flagellate her myself, cleansing her of the sins she committed for wasting my time with this rubbish.

Perhaps you are thinking that I am just as empty brained as that Sally Jay. After all, anyone with a lick of sense should know to stay away from a novel with the word ‘dud’ explicitly featured in its title.

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