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The Dud Avocado

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  4,523 Ratings  ·  771 Reviews
The Dud Avocado follows the romantic and comedic adventures of a young American who heads overseas to conquer Paris in the late 1950s. Edith Wharton and Henry James wrote about the American girl abroad, but it was Elaine Dundy’s Sally Jay Gorce who told us what she was really thinking. Charming, sexy, and hilarious, The Dud Avocado gained instant cult status when it was fi ...more
Paperback, 260 pages
Published June 5th 2007 by NYRB Classics (first published 1958)
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Kath Halford Read the second to last line then you'll understand. The line is, 'It's the last word.' Then she says 'It's zymotic'. ie literally the last word, in…moreRead the second to last line then you'll understand. The line is, 'It's the last word.' Then she says 'It's zymotic'. ie literally the last word, in the dictionary.Typical Sally Jay joke this - she gives us a line, then after the full stop another line that makes it funny such as '"That's all I have to say on the subject subject" he said. It wasn't.' (less)

Community Reviews

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Aug 03, 2011 Sunday rated it did not like it
I hated this book because I don't enjoy bourgeois tourism as an expensive alternative to "coming of age" stories. This is a filthy fiction predecessor to things like "Eat, Pray, Love;" where cultures are charmingly fit into tampon-sized life lessons for the Beautiful Blonde American. It just wasn't very funny or enlightening to the large portion of Us Blondes gaining weight on gas station candy bars and dating guys named Carl. Travel braggery is a dirty no-no for an entire generation of girls, l ...more
Jan 28, 2015 Tony rated it really liked it
If you take the stone of an avocado, Stefan rhapsodizes, and put it in water - just plain water - in just three months, anywhere, any place in the world, up comes a sturdy little plant of green leaves.

Ah, the familiar story line, the recurring fantasy: quit the American life; take a change of underwear and a toothbrush; and expatriate yourself. Anywhere will do. But, usually, Paris.

Once upon a time, Sally Jay Gorce kept running away from home. Trouble usually followed, without any consequences o
American Innocents abroad, but the most adorable iteration of it I've ever read. This oozes charm out every pore, or would if books were porous objects- which I suppose paper is, isn't it? I don't know. Anyway, this is another one of those "why haven't more people read this?" books. This is absolutely the perfect coming-of-age/discovering-the-self novel for college-age and twenty-somethings to read. It's wish fulfillment that starts at fantasy and almost ends at reality- but not for this champag ...more
Jul 06, 2016 Katie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nyrb-classics
I was prepared to give this a slightly lower rating (goodreads has got me thinking in stars) until the last forty or so pages, which are fabulous, probably perfect. How often can you say that? There's a description of a martini I had to write down. Well, okay, here it is: "We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." Maybe I'm an alcoholic, but doesn't that sound great? Plus it's set off in its own paragraph. This story of a fun-loving gal's y ...more
Jul 23, 2015 Trish rated it really liked it
This delightful confection about a young girl, Sally Jay Gorce, in Paris has the kind of timeless voice that one can imagine sounding piquant and fresh in just about any decade of the last century, right up until today. Sally Jay has a closetful of designer clothes that she bought on sale but always seems to find herself wearing the wrong thing…like a cocktail dress in the daytime or a rumpled, layered schoolgirl look while trying to intimidate a consular officer at the U.S. Embassy. I can sympa ...more
Jan 17, 2015 Jim rated it really liked it
Shelves: france, fiction
Let's see: An American girl on her own in Paris during the 1950s. Sounds pretty cut-and-dried, doesn't it? Except, in this case, it isn't. Elaine Dundy and her character, Sally Jay Gorce, are originals. It's far too easy to write one of those la-la here we are in Paris books, but more difficult to recognize that wherever you go, there you are. Getting to that "you" is like trying to figure out how to eat an avocado if you've never seen one before. Just bite into it through the skin, and it's ptu ...more
Everything I hadn't expected it to be. The faux-memoirs of a more literate version of Paris Hilton adventuring in exotic Paris for two years, financed by her sugar uncle. Her escapades involve getting into acting, falling in love at first sight, and becoming the mistress of French monsieurs.

It's all terribly outrageous, sassy and hilarious according to the jubilant foreword and the extensive praise. Except that in reality sad echoes of Sex & The City predominate. The quasi-sophisticated her
Mar 26, 2013 Stephen rated it did not like it
If navel-gazing were a sport, Elaine Dundy would win olympic gold. In this pointless pseudo-novel (actually a memoir), which reads like A Moveable Feast crossed with Sex and the City (yet somehow managing to surpass both in banality and narcissism), a young American expatriate in Paris deals with such vital problems as "if I could only figure out if it was Larry I was in love with, or just love" and the worry that she's too much of a stereotypical tourist (and then wondering if her worrying is i ...more
Dec 19, 2008 Christy rated it really liked it
"The Dud Avocado" chronicles the adventures of Sally Jay Gorce, an American bon vivant living in Paris (pink hair; a married Italian lover; once ran away to become a bull-fighter). A delightful cross between "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "A Moveable Feast". I can't believe this progressive novel was written in the fifties.
Dec 08, 2014 Anmiryam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Charming and evanescent, Elaine Dundy's novel of the madcap adventures of a young expatriate in Paris is a whirligig of a book. Imagine an unsentimental version of Audrey Hepburn, intelligent but a bit ditzy, toss in a healthy dollop of sexual and romantic hijinks and deliver it in a rollicking voice that is never less than fresh and you will begin to get a sense of what it's like to read 'The Dud Avocado.' It's charming from page one, and just when you think that the book is nothing but verbal ...more
Oct 07, 2012 Oriana rated it really liked it
Recommended to Oriana by: L Magazine
Shelves: read-2012
I bought this on the street for $3. I'm really mystified, though: I was totally sure that I'd read a glowing review of it by Emily Gould some time ago, but the internet is hiding it from me or something. Does anyone know what I'm talking about? Was it not Emily but someone else? I mean, someone put it in my head that this was one to grab, I didn't just make it up.

Anyways. Super terrifically swell. It's a story of a twenty-something gal in Paris in the fifties being sexy and young and silly and
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I didn't care much for this book, in fact I didn't finish it. It wasn't terrible, just kinda boring when it was billed as being funny. I'm surprised it has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity. Not that great, but as usual, I copied some things I liked from it.

I really liked this line about people who are trying too hard to be different or radical:

"They were most of them so violently individualistic as to be practically interchangeable."

And this one about thinking you know people close to you:
Sally Jay Gorce is a young American tourist trying to conquer Paris in the late 1950’s. Often compared to Edith Wharton and Henry James who both wrote about American girls abroad, the Dud Avocado is a romantic and comedic adventure unlike anything I’ve read before. A novel that gained cult status quickly, this is a quirky story of a woman hell-bent on really living.

This is really a hard novel to review, simply because I don’t want to give people too many expectations or spoil the plot in any way
Sep 30, 2007 David rated it really liked it
I picked this one up per Terry Teachout's recommendation - he's the drama critic for the Wall Street Journal, and also wrote an excellent biography of H.L. Mencken. This is a favorite of his, and I certainly wasn't disappointed - you'd be hard pressed to find a better light reading experience. It's an innocent abroad story - Sally Jay Gorce travels to Paris, pursues acting, loses her virginity, and does all the funny things you'd expect an inexperience girl to do in a foreign city. It's laugh-ou ...more
Aug 25, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it
Another book from the low end of the Keith Law 102 and one that, if I was judging by its cover, I was unlikely to have ever read. Indeed, between the tastefully-posed naked woman on the front and the blurb hearkening to Tropic of Cancer (one of the worst books I've ever read) on the back, had I picked it up I would not have given it a shot. And that would have been my loss, because this is a hilarious story of an American girl's blunders through Paris in the 50s.

It's always a surprise to me when
Elaine Dundy knows how to capture a scene. The parts of the book where something is actually happening work like gangbusters. The dialogue is clever but realistic. The details are pertinent but also hilarious. Most of the first chapter is a really long scene between the narrator and her new crush as they chat at a Paris café. If you are anything like me, this scene will pull you in. And you’ll assume that the rest of the book will continue in this fashion. But the book has other plans.

Every so
Sep 03, 2011 Maureen rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
the dud avocado reads like a witty woman's take on the sun also rises, with the pink-haired protagonist sally jay gorce, an often silly struggling ingenue, going to parties, falling in love, and trying to find herself in paris in the fifties. eventually, she goes on a road trip to spain where she ends up as an extra on a bullfighter movie, and partying some more. unfortunately, for me the book began to drag while she was there, and i found the ending was rushed, grafted on, and out of sync with ...more
Jan 06, 2009 Kimley rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: ingenues
Elaine Dundy is sort of an American Colette. There's even a bit with a cat.

The precocious young American girl in Paris has certainly been done before but our heroine Sally Jay has a lot more self awareness than the typical innocent abroad and at the same time she still manages to get herself into all kinds of amusingly compromising situations. Dundy can give one or two details about a character which are so spot on that you immediately feel like you've met this person. I certainly recognized man
My apologies to anyone who liked this book, but I couldn't stand it. It reads like a grating mix of Sex in the City, modernist stream of consciousness prose, Dickens, Sybil (the book/ movie about dissociative identity disorder), something by Thomas Pynchon, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Real Housewives - all on ADHD, and in Paris a few decades ago. That should be awesome, but it wasn't. Again, so sorry, normally I am a very generous and open reader, and I desperately wanted to love this book, ...more
Sep 04, 2007 Edan rated it really liked it
How can you not love a novel in which a man wears a suit made of pool-table cloth?
In the first chapter, the narrator, Sally Jay Gorce, remarks:
"You know how it is. Some people can hack and hack away at you and nothing happens at all and then someone else just touches you lightly on the arm and you come...yes, I mean that's what happened. I came."
B the BookAddict
Feb 25, 2014 B the BookAddict rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: laugh-out-loud
Sally Jay is a class act; riotously funny. Definitely a book NOT to be read in public; you will "laugh, scream and guffaw" just as Groucho Marx did. Sally Jay Gorce, with her pink hair and distressing clothes problem, is a riot. To unleash this girl on an unsuspecting Paris is a cruel and unusual punishment - those poor Parisians. This is a must read. 4.5 ...more
Review to follow.
Jun 10, 2008 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
I discovered this reissued novel on a swap rack at a hotel in Mexico City last summer...and I was delighted that I did. I've since passed it on to a friend, Heather, whom I met in Mexico is now on GR. It seems like that kind of book: one you should pass on to a friend or stranger. The first person narrator, a young American on her own in Paris, is beguiling. Her adventures and misadventures with men are charmingly recounted in a delightfully understated way. I think it's easy to forget that some ...more
Sep 16, 2012 Tosh rated it really liked it
This is a pretty good novel dealing with a (very) young girl making her mark romantically in Paris during the late 50's. Elaine Dundy's background is quite interesting. She was married to theater critic icon Kenneth Tynan as well as wriing a much admired biography on Elvis and his mother.

I met her briefly during a reading for "The Dud Avocado," and she sort of strikes me a a Louise Brooks type of character. Super book smart, lived a great life, and sexy.
Becca Becca
Jul 14, 2007 Becca Becca rated it really liked it
Shelves: style, girlie-stuff
I took a lit class in college that focused on American expatriates in Paris during the 20th century. I think this book would have fit in really well with the reading list, which included books by Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, and James Baldwin.

This is also a fun summer read. It made me want to fly to paris and disappear in another country.
Jan 27, 2015 Emily rated it it was amazing
Oh man, why don't we read this instead of Catcher in the Rye? It should be that famous. Too much sex-talk, lesbians, and liberated women I guess. And while I wouldn't like the narrator if I could meet her in person, I really valued being shown somebody so different from myself. And the writing! Why don't we read this instead of Hemingway!? I ask you. I'd take this over 1000 old fishermen.
Jun 21, 2014 Fantaghiro23 rated it it was amazing
Sally Jay Gorce is now among my favorite female characters in literature.:)
switterbug (Betsey)
Sep 21, 2013 switterbug (Betsey) rated it it was ok
The protagonist of Dud Avocado, Sally Jay Gorce, is the reason that this book is engaging and ultimately readable. In 1955, American in Paris Sally is plucky, wry, sardonic, bohemian, sexually liberated, and spontaneous--like a butterfly out of the chrysalis. This book was written in 1958 but Elaine Dundy's prose and narrative still hold up. This was before feminism! But was it really? There are many instances in literature before the women's lib movement where female characters were assertive a ...more
Nov 27, 2011 Melee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well! I was pleasantly surprised by this book! Or the ending, at least; I really did not see the last 50 pages coming. Perhaps they didn't perfectly align with the rest of the book, but I didn't (and don't) really care. The heroine (Sally Jay) impressed me too! She was not nearly as glibly amoral as I thought she would be. She was charming, amusing, and (at times) relatable.
There were a few boggy scenes to be waded through, but there was always something amusing or interesting waiting on the oth
Betsy Robinson
Dec 03, 2014 Betsy Robinson rated it liked it
A writer with the freedom to create a protagonist with an original voice who possesses the honesty to poke herself: “I’m a real phony,” writes Sally Jay Gorce, “one of those half-baked hot-house plants we’re growing nowadays, instead of the honest-to-God two-fisted women we should be, and, neurotic that I am, I shrink like mad from the criminal type. If anyone comes at me with a club, I duck, brother, I duck. And then I run.”

For me, it bogged down in the middle — a little too much social satire
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NYRB Classics: The Dud Avocado, by Elaine Dundy 37 57 Jul 31, 2015 11:03AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy 2 20 Mar 08, 2015 08:52PM  
Literary Exploration: First Impressions *No Spoilers* 14 52 Jun 12, 2013 09:37AM  
Literary Exploration: Final Thoughts *Spoilers* 2 38 Jun 12, 2013 12:32AM  
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Elaine Dundy (1921–2008) grew up in New York City and Long Island. After graduating from Sweet Briar College in 1943 she worked as an actress in Paris and, later, London, where she met her future husband, the theater critic Kenneth Tynan. Dundy wrote three novels, The Dud Avocado (1958), The Old Man and Me (1964), and The Injured Party (1974); a play, My Place (produced in 1962); biographies of El ...more
More about Elaine Dundy...

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“I always expect people to behave much better than I do. When they actually behave worse, I am frankly incredulous.” 26 likes
“That's my answer to the question what is your strongest emotion, if you ever want to ask me: Curiosity, old bean. Curiosity every time.” 19 likes
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