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The Dud Avocado

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3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  3,299 ratings  ·  618 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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Sunday
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
Kelly
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
Katie
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
Christy
"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.
Anmiryam
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
Michael
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...more
oriana
Oct 07, 2012 oriana rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
David
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
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:...more
Stephen
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
Mark
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...more
Bette BookAddict
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★
Kimley
Jan 06, 2009 Kimley rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
Tosh
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.
Maureen
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
Jessica
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
Becca Becca
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.
Nicky
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...more
Melee
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...more
Teri
Feb 23, 2008 Teri rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Teri by: bas bleu
Shelves: fiction, 2008
I think Elaine Dundy is a brilliant writer. That being said, I don't know if I can recommend this book to anyone. It took me about 50 pages to decide I did indeed like it, even with the great writing. The story is strange to me at times. I liked it more as I continued on. Still I don't know if it will appeal to any of my friends. It was written in 1958 and I am sure a very wild book for the time. Groucho Marx and Laurence Olivier were fans of this book. If that says anything.
Fantaghiro23
Sally Jay Gorce is now among my favorite female characters in literature.:)
Edan
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."
Wowza!
switterbug (Betsey)
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
Joanne
Oh, to be 20-something again! There's something about one's early 20s that really can't be replicated, especially if it involves traveling abroad. This is an age when you're old enough to enjoy the experience but still stupid enough to live with a certain amount of abandon. Elaine Dundy's 1958 novel The Dud Avocado is narrated by a young American, Sally Jay Gorce, who travels abroad searching for an adventure. Set in Paris circa 1950's, Sally wants to experience life, and relishes it to its full...more
Roberta
Non so bene cosa mi aspettassi da questo romanzo, ma evidentemente non ci ho trovato questo granché. Il dolce frutto è un romanzo semi-autobiografico e racconta le vicissitudini di una giovane ragazza americana a Parigi. Sally Jay Gorce da bambina scappava sempre di casa fino a quando lo zio Roger la convocò a casa sua per capirne le motivazioni. Sally Jay voleva la sua libertà per 'star fuori fino a tardi e mangiare tutto quello che mi piace quando mi pare'. Non solo, non vuole che le vengano p...more
Carol Smith
A superbly offbeat title with an offbeat heroine to match. I thought the '50's were all prim and prudish, but Elaine Dundy has forever corrected me on this point. The Dud Avocadois a terrific romp.

So many fun 1950's turns of phrase that I lost count of them ("suffer him his little sally"; "as sure as God made little green apples", etc.). Just a few of my favorite lines:
- A rowdy bunch on the whole, they were most of them so violently individualistic as to be practically interchangeable.
- When I
...more
Kat Hagedorn
http://tinyurl.com/59km6m

As the back cover says, "deceptive." Essentially, a tale of the life and times of a young American girl in Paris in the 50s, there's much more depth to this story than at first blush.

Firstly, the author is a great storyteller, weaving honesty, complicity, faith, and the "joys" of being a woman in a man's world into something cohesive. (The book is somewhat autobiographical, so writing from life...) In particular, I like one descriptive passage on why hosting dinner parti...more
Cheryl
This book was rather hard for me to get into. I had to read the first couple of chapters aloud to myself to get the narrator's voice down and really process what I was reading. Once I found a flow though, the book started to pass by in a whirl.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Dud Avocado. Elaine Dundy gives her heroine, Sally Jay Gorce, such a vivid voice. She is utterly silly and frivolous, the kind of person who would generally drive me nuts. And yet, littered throughout the book are succinct gems of...more
Shana
Once upon a time, I was told that what my writing had was voice, that it came naturally and effortlessly and was distinctly mine. Using this gift of my voice, I was meant to go out in the world and say something. Well, so far, that’s yet to happen, but it came as no surprise while reading the afterward of a novel I’d loved madly to see a quote from Gore Vidal to the writer, “You’ve got the one thing a writer needs: You’ve got your own voice. Now go.” The novel was bewitching and loveable and exc...more
Abby
Jun 22, 2008 Abby rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who want to read smarty & funny books featuring lovely madcap heroines
Started this book a year ago around ALA and then got distracted by other things -- just picked it up again over vacation and was charmed and captivated by Sally Jay Gorce's crazy European adventures. The flippant and sophisticated banter Ms. Gorces tosses off with her friends, acquaintances, and paramours brought to mind the voice of Cassandra Edwards (from Dorothy Baker's Cassandra at the Wedding), one of my all-time favorite literary heroines. I wasn't so enamored of the whole "white slavery"...more
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NYRB Classics: The Dud Avocado, by Elaine Dundy 1 4 Oct 22, 2013 07:05PM  
Literary Exploration: First Impressions *No Spoilers* 14 50 Jun 12, 2013 09:37AM  
Literary Exploration: Final Thoughts *Spoilers* 2 31 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
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“I always expect people to behave much better than I do. When they actually behave worse, I am frankly incredulous.” 21 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.” 17 likes
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