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The Dud Avocado (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – June 5, 2007

3.3 out of 5 stars 133 customer reviews

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Four girls on a trip to Paris suddenly find themselves in a high-stakes game of Truth or Dare that spirals out of control. Learn More
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Editorial Reviews


“Basically, if you were to set Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady near the Sorbonne, untangle the sentences and add more slapstick, sex and champagne cocktails, you’re getting close.” - Rosecrans Baldwin, NPR's "All Things Considered"

"Already singled out in O the Oprah Magazine and named an Amazon.com 'mover and shaker,' this edition will...introduce a new readership to the unforgettable Sally Jay Gorce, described by one reviewer as a cross between Carrie Bradshaw and Holden Caulfield." --Los Angeles Times


"Before Bridget Jones, deeply sweet and recklessly intimate Sally Jay Gorce trolled for love (Parisian style) in novelist (and sometime wife of theater critic Kenneth Tynan) Elaine Dundy's The Dud Avocado, a madcap read from 1958 that's finally back in print in the United States." --O Magazine


"The Dud Avocado follows a charming, if blundering, 21-year-old Missouri native, Sally Jay Gorce, who spends two postcollege years sipping Pernod on "la plus belle avenue du monde," the Champs-Élysées; staging William Saroyan and Tennessee Williams with an American theater troupe, and fumbling terribly at love." --The New York Sun


"Think Daisy Miller with a dash of Fear of Flying; My Sister Eileen with a soupçon of Sex and the City; Anita Loos crossed with Allen Ginsberg." --The Philadelphia Inquirer


"Now, this favorite has been re-issued yet again, with a gorgeous black and white nude on the cover. Fair enough, for here is a book primarily about sex and style...few writers ever soared so high and so delightfully." --Los Angeles Times


"The Dud Avocado opens with our beautiful and hapless heroine--imagine the panache of Holly Golightly crossed with the naive knowingness of Holden Caulfield--wandering one September morning through Paris in an evening dress." --Boston Globe


"Elaine Dundy's semi-autobiographical novel The Dud Avocado, which follows the romantic escapades of Sally Jay Gorce--an irrepressible young woman seeking adventure in '50s Paris--contains a lot of what makes fiction fun: charm, wit, and devastatingly sharp insights." --Very Short List


"The gayest and most cheerful novel about Americans in Paris I have read...a dazzling performance--as light as a champagne bubble, as continuously attention-getting as a juggler keeping seven swords in the air at the same time." --The New York Times


"Take one zippy, curious, 21-year-old American named Sally Jay, just out of college. Drop her in the middle of Paris' Left Bank. Add an Italian diplomat, an American theatrical director , a couple of painters and a white slave trader. Mix until all bubbles. The result: a delightful few hours of sparkling reading entertainment. Summing up: Froth and frolic." --Newsweek


"Delightful...her portrait of the Left Bank expatriates is caustically funny." --Time


"A champagne cockail...rich, invigorating, and deceptively simple to the taste...One falls for Sally Jay from a great height from the first sentence." --The Observer


"A first-rate reporter, [Dundy] has made The Dud Avocado into a Baedeker of neo-Bohemiahe...the atmosphere of a French student café; the folkways of hobohemia; the accents of the International Set-all these Miss Dundy has captured with sill and a degree of wit." --The New York Times Book Review


"A cheerfully uninhibited...variation on the theme of the Innocents Abroad...Miss Dundy comes up with fresh and spirited comedy...Her novel is enormous fun-sparklingly written, genuinely youthful in spirit, and exquisitely gay." --The Atlantic


"Elaine Dundy writes a sprightly novel to bring us up to date on the American girl from across the street who goes to Paris looking for Life and Love. Her book is sad and tender, bubbling with fun, spiced with insight...The Dud Avocado is satiric, mostly true, and decidedly sexy...The writing is sharp." --New York Herald Tribune


"[W]itticisms that crackle from every page." --Indianapolis Star


"One of the funniest books I've ever read; it should be subtitled Daisy Miller's Revenge." --Gore Vidal

"American goes to some big city with dreams of conquest, hilarity ensues. Dundy’s 1958 novel (which had a huge fan in Groucho Marx) is pretty much the best and funniest example of that whole genre." —Jason Diamond, Flavorwire

About the Author

Elaine Dundy (1921—2008) was born in New York City, and lived in Paris and London. She was married for a time to theater critic Kenneth Tynan. She wrote plays, novels, and biographies, including Elvis and Gladys and Life Itself! Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, and Vogue among other publications. Her novel, The Dud Avocado, was re-published by NYRB Classics in 2007.

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (June 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590172329
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590172322
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The narrator of this story, Sally Jay, seems to have a lot in common with that other literary single-girl (pre-Bushnell days) Holly Golightly. She manages to combine innocence and world-weariness, rolling with her situation, no matter how chaotic it becomes. If anything, Sally Jay is Holly's older, slightly tougher sister. A young woman who has been running away all her life, gets the chance to run away to Paris thanks to an avuncular uncle, and lives a pink-haired bohemian existence, trying to experience life to the full - affairs with older men, hanging out with artists, nights at the Ritz followed by dingy student cafes. In the odd beginning chapter (it feels like you have missed an introductory chapter, and it takes awhile before you feel like you know what is going on) she meets a boy/man she has always had a crush on, and her chaotic life becomes even messier. One of her descriptions of him - `I didn't know anyone he'd actually been wrong about - except of course me, but then as we know I am totally incomprehensible to everyone including myself' is shown by the end to be sadly true.
This is a well-written book - cleverly hiding its sinister elements in the light and deft descriptions Sally Jay gives of her life. You feel that sometimes she is trying to kid herself and the reader that really, everything's going to be all right. This is a genuinely entertaining read that still manages to encompass some big themes - the search for happiness and acceptance; making priorities in life; disillusionment and what it can do to temperament. Sally Jay is sure to stay with this reader for a long time.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Dud Avocado is a pseudo-memoir of a naïve American girl, Sally Jay, who travels to Paris in the 1950s. She gives us a running catalogue of her adventures, the people she meets, and the various scenes of Paris during this time period.

The intent of the narrative is to be light-hearted and comedic, which I suppose it accomplishes on a seldom basis, but the negatives outweigh any of the positives for this book. We get into the head of our protagonist, Sally Jay, but that narrator’s head is about the last place you probably want to be. She goes on and on about banal events in her daily life: what she wore, what other people are wearing or drinking, who is sitting at the next table, who is peeling labels off bottle caps, etc. Everything this narrator gives to us seems inconsequential and empty.

On some level, this book is supposed to be a coming of age novel, but Sally Jay remains fairly shallow throughout, along with most of the other characters. The narrative, much like the narrator, lacks any direction or purpose, wandering from water hole to water hole or from bed to bed in search of life’s answers or enlightenment. There is far too much rambling without purpose, and when there is detail, it comes in the form of a laundry list of every bar Sally Jay went to and each person she met.

I found Sally Jay’s character so superficial, and her attempts at wit or meaning or finding “love” a major fail and meaningless. I started to lose track of all the guys that she was involved with, especially since they were all fairly interchangeable. At one point, after a drunken night out, she thinks she has slept with Larry, feels guilty and regretful about it, and then promptly winds up in a French painter’s bed hours later. So much for that whole guilt thing.
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Format: Paperback
It isn't often that you can read something which qualifies as both a modern feminist classic and makes you laugh out loud. I loved the descriptions of early 20-th century Paris, could sympathise with the heroine's cads and catastrophes. This is a book to read if you want to walk on the bohemian side. For anyone who's ever walked around in evening dress the morning after.
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Format: Paperback
Elaine Dundy's book will have you laughing out loud at protagonist Sally Jay Gorce's Parisian misadventures. From the first page, Sally Jay's intelligent, somewhat addled but wildly sarcastic voice entices the reader as she relates her exploits as a young American actress in Paris, complete with stories of drunken carousing, falling in and out of love, dancing in gay bars, dining with aristocrats, coldly sizing up her spoiled Ivy League expatriate friends, and losing her passport along with her temper, among other madcap doings. Just goes to show that, 40 years ago, (who knew?) Americans in Paris were drinking, smoking, sleeping around, staying out all night and hankering for new experiences. This well-written, very entertaining book will be a real eye-opener for readers who think that America in the 1950s was populated exclusively with straight-laced, Ozzie-and-Harriet types.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Dud Avocado was published more than 50 years ago to much acclaim, and then apparently, it vanished from view. Over the years it was re-published only to fade again. The Preface by Terry Teachout explains all this, and by the way, this is the most tepid introduction to a book. Reading it makes you not want to read the book. Question to author, why on earth would you permit such a Preface in YOUR book?

Fifty years ago the adventures of Sally Jay Gorce, the heroine, would have dazzled the reader. After all, this was pre-Women's Lib, pre-birth control pill and everything else that revolutionized women's place in society in the 1970's. Here was a daring young woman--only 18 years old--living in Paris on her own, and experimenting with Life in an uninhibited way. Of course this included taking lovers, in fact starting with a married Italian diplomat who also had a mistress. No social mores bounded her. Whatever she wanted she got, whatever she chose to dress (pre-hippie era) she wore. All this in an era so repressed that TVs in America would not show married couples sharing a bed.

To a repressive society of 1950's America, this heroine was unique. She embodied the spirit and guts to do things that most women would not even verbalize. No wonder this book was so successful. It was a herald of things to come, though no one knew the extent of those changing values. When Society's values changed and women were able to live free unrepressed lives, to younger generations, the adventures of the Dud Avocado's heroine would not have struck that same chord.

Ms.Teachout warns us in the Preface that if we do not find this book hilarious, then we have no sense of humor. It is not hilarious by today's standards. It is poignant in places and filled with insights.
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