“The Dud Avocado” by Elaine Dundy

Elaine Dundy’s Dud Avocado has been on my to-read list since it was re-published in 2007 by the New York Review of Books, and received all sorts of praise in the blogosphere (e.g., Maud Newton.) In his introduction, lit blogger Terry Teachout says,

It is the destiny of some good novels to be perpetually rediscovered, and Elaine Dundy’s The Dud Avocado, I fear, is one of them.

Our heroine is an American in Paris, sometime post-Hemingway. A rich uncle funds her adventure abroad, and she’s trying to get his money’s worth. She has a strong, distinct voice, and a great sense of humor, especially at her own expense.

It was around eleven in the morning, I remember, and I was drifting down the boulevard St. Michel, thought rising in my head like little puffs of smoke, when suddenly a voice bellowed into my ear: “Sally Jay Gorce! What the hell?”…

“Why pink?” he asked, studying my new coiffure carefully. “Why not green?”

As a matter of fact I’d had my hair dyed a marvelous shade of pale red so popular with Parisian tarts that season. It was the first direct remark he made about the New Me and it was hardly encouraging.

Slowly his eyes left my hair and traveled downwards. This time he really took in my outfit and then that Look that I’m always encountering; that special one composed in equal parts of amusement, astonishment and horror came over his face.

I am not a moron and I can generally guess what causes this look. The trouble is, it’s always something different.

I squirmed uncomfortably, feeling his eyes bearing down on my bare shoulders and breasts.

“What the hell are you doing in the middle of the morning with an evening dress on?” he asked me finally.

Sally Jay tries to disentangle herself from her Euro lover and entangle herself with an old friend. The book details the dubious results, and becomes utterly engrossing toward the end. Surprising revelations occur, not least of which are the ones Sally Jay has about herself.

This is an odd, funny book with engaging twists at the end and a weird, lovable main character. It’s a little Movable Feast-y, Great Gatsby-ish, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s-esque. I’m glad it’s back in print, and glad to have read it, finally.

3 Responses to ““The Dud Avocado” by Elaine Dundy”

  1. Stephanie Says:

    Thanks for your review–I’ve been wanting to read this book for a year or two now.

  2. girldetective Says:

    A local book club I’ve been thinking of joining had it as their September pick, so I thought I’d read it for that. Alas, I couldn’t manage that and MY book group’s Sept book, World Gone Beautiful, so I missed the meeting, but still finished Dud Avocado. It was a good excuse to finally read the book!

  3. gretchenjoanna Says:

    I’d never heard of this book, but your review makes me think I would like it. Thanks very much!