If there is anyone out there who has not read my number one Summer Reading pick, consider yourself crossed off my friends list, deleted from facebook, and shunned if I see you on the street. The author has appeared on my countdown earlier in the week and in my humble opinion, she is the Godmother of glamour fiction. I can only be talking about Jacqueline Susann and her 1966 classic “Valley of the Dolls.”
The Plot: Do I really need to outline this plot for anyone? The 1960’s. Show business. Three beautiful young women. The quest for success and love. Sleeping pills. Tragedy.
- The Guessing Game. Susann was one of (if not the) first authors to blatantly admit that their plot was not entirely fictional. Half of the fun of reading “Valley” is trying to guess which of the stars of yesteryear Susann is referencing. Rumors persist to this day that each of her heroines was based on living, breathing denizens of Hollywood. Boozing starlet Neely O’Hara was allegedly based on Judy Garland and her rocky relationship with pill and drink, tragic beauty Jennifer North was modeled after actresses Carole Landis and Marilyn Monroe, and Anne Welles has been suggested to be an idealized, innocent version of Susann herself. As for the monstrous Broadway legend Helen Lawson? Susann herself never corrected the rumor that she was based on Ethel Merman, who allegedly spurned Susann’s romantic advances. This is why you should never piss off a writer.
- The Writing. Susann famously declared “I’m gonna write the way I wanna write!” and boy did she deliver. Years of listening to backstage gossip gave Susann an unrivaled edge on crafting believable dialogue and her raunchy (for the time) sex scenes were the talk of the nation in the mid-60’s.
- It Has Stood the Test of Time. In addition to be a wonderful little time capsule of life in the swinging 60’s, “Valley” is still as relevant as ever. As long as the Lindsay Lohans of the world continue to self-destruct, this is a tale that can be retold a million times. Plus, it has done the impossible—it has transcended the realm of trashy novels and made the leap to respectable literature.
- One thing and one thing only: The novel ends. Once you get sucked into the compelling story, you don’t want the novel to ever reach a conclusion.
There is absolutely no need to go on and on about “Valley of the Dolls.” It’s just that good. So if you’re reading this and rolling your eyes, I challenge you to pick up this book and read the first chapter. I guarantee you’ll be hooked.