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The Dud Avocado

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  7,099 ratings  ·  1,065 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
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 t…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)

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Average rating 3.63  · 
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Steven Godin
Sep 20, 2017 rated it liked it
"where have you been!" you look as if you've just got out of bed?"
"I have. I just got out of the bed of some Frenchman."

It's the 50's and American Sally Jay Gorce is young, attractive, slightly disorganised and ever so keen to come to Paris on the wealth of her Uncle, to have a bloody good time!. And doesn't she just!. Although it's not all plain sailing for this seductive temptress. Dying her hair pink, she struts around town in her failed outfits (stubbornly dividing them into three looks: Tyr
Jan 27, 2015 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 28, 2007 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
Julie Ehlers
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Dud Avocado is like a haphazard cross between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Henry Miller, although funnier than Fitzgerald and less philosophical than Miller. It has young broke (but not poor) white people bumming around Europe, and when the plot isn't happening there are a lot of descriptions of the artistic milieu of Paris and the random debauched nightlife. I thought the heroine, Sally Jay Gorce, was kind of ridiculous, but I wasn't bothered by that or anything else because this book is HILARIO ...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 heroine
May 14, 2011 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
Oct 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5, rounded down.

Under different circumstances, I might have judged this slight bagatelle a bit more harshly, but in the annus horribilis that is 2020, it came as a delicious surprise ... and just the perfect antidote to all the misery and PTSD of the past few months. To the very short pantheon of indelibly original and slightly ditsy female literary characters: Lorelei Lee, Holly Golightly, Delysia LaFosse - one must make room for the unique Sally Jay Gorce, a faux naïf getting into mishaps an
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, france
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
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
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:
Beth Bonini
Feb 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: paris, historical
"You know, these American girls are just like avocados." "A hard center with the tender meat all wrapped up in a shiny casing."

If someone were to describe this book to me I would definitely find it appealing: 1950s Parisian setting; a young American girl experiencing freedom for the first time, falling in and out of love, arms wide open to adventure. The cover is great; the title is funny and memorable; it has a 'classic' but slightly hipster provenance; it all added up to high reading hopes. S
Mar 24, 2013 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
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
Abandoned at pg. 128.

This was awful. Just awful.
Feb 13, 2017 rated it liked it
And then one day, one memorable day in the early evening, I stumbled across the Champs-Élysées. I know it seems crazy to say, but before I actually stepped onto it, I had not been aware of its existence. No, I swear it... All at once I found myself standing there gazing down that enchanted boulevard in the blue, blue, evening. Everything seemed to fall into place. Here was all the gaiety and glory and sparkle I knew was going to be life if I could just grasp it. I began floating down those Elysi ...more
Feb 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels, city-girls, bought, ww
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
Dec 16, 2008 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. ...more
I wish I could've brought myself to care about this. I really didn't. The three stars are for Paris, which I greatly miss, and where I've been in equal parts very happy and terribly unhappy. ...more
Jun 21, 2013 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
Aug 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Sally Jay Gorce is the narrator of this coming-of-age tale, a 21-year-old American in Paris in 1955, and of course the “dud avocado” of the title. As one of the many tiresome older-and-wiser men who populate the novel explains to her:
“You know, these American girls are just like avocados….” His avocado arrived and he looked at it lovingly. “The Typical American Girl,” he said, addressing it. “A hard center with the tender meat all wrapped up in a shiny casing.” He began eating it. “How I love t
Sep 27, 2019 rated it liked it
If I had just read the first half of this book, I would have given it 5 stars. I found it hilarious, of the actual laugh-out-loud kind, something which I rarely do when reading. I loved the narrator, Sally Jay Groce and her mis-adventures as a young American girl in Paris. Sally is wild but somehow despite her behavior retains a certain innocence. She is witty and self-deprecating and her take on those around her is acerbic and amusing.

However, half-way through the book, I grew tired of Sally (w
Aug 29, 2009 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
Sep 30, 2007 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 24, 2010 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
Sally Jay, the main character of this novel, is my mother. Scratch that, she's what my mother hoped to be, before the US tech boom and a jealous husband with anger management issues and no small inclination towards pedophilia trapped her in a neighborhood whose French was nonexistent and whose white share of the local population was steadily declining with every passing year. Francophile, beloved, incompetent, able to fake her way through any social interaction for the sake of that next thrill/r ...more
Jan 17, 2015 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. ...more
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
Jan 05, 2021 added it
book is about being a slut, having a bad time on vacation, having a meltdown, then finally realizing you should go to grad school. in two words: aries culture.
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was SO much more fun than I was expecting. Evening dresses on laundry days, pink hair, and endless partying.... Try keeping up with Sally Jay Gorce, a girl about town. Elaine Dundy's The Dud Avocado portrays the adventures of a young American in 1950’s Paris in an incredibly authentic and modern voice. Through Sally Jay’s witty (often LOL-funny), unyielding, and strangely perceptive character, this novel carries wonderful momentum despite lacking any serious plot.

I chose this book for a re
J.M. Hushour
Jul 19, 2019 rated it liked it
This is one of those novels that is hard to judge because it is alternately funny and charming and whimsical but also grating and annoying and stupid.
This is no reflection on Dundy as a writer. She clearly has talent. No, this is one of those cases where the main character infuriates one to the point where you aren't sure if you're supposed to find her crass and annoying or not. Is it all a rib at us, the reader?
Sally Jay Gorce is an obnoxious, upper middle-class American who makes a deal with h
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Play Book Tag: The Dud Avocado / Elaine Dundy - 2** 2 16 Aug 29, 2017 07:35PM  
NYRB Classics: The Dud Avocado, by Elaine Dundy 37 92 Jul 31, 2015 11:03AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy 2 22 Mar 08, 2015 08:52PM  
Literary Exploration: First Impressions *No Spoilers* 14 64 Jun 12, 2013 09:37AM  
Literary Exploration: Final Thoughts *Spoilers* 2 46 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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What will you do when it's your turn to pick your book club's next read? Well, this is what you won't do: panic. Why not? Because we've dug...
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“I always expect people to behave much better than I do. When they actually behave worse, I am frankly incredulous.” 31 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.” 23 likes
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