After almost a decade focusing primarily on camp I just couldn’t go on without honing in on this highly-sought title, especially since it’s celebrating its 50th anniversary this month with a brand new edition from Grove Press. Yes, my little dollies, the classic of all classics about three desperate beauties reaching for the top in love, work, and pills is back in print to commemorate its sheer fabulousness. The first time I ever held a paperback copy in my hand I was around 17, working at this pizza place answering phones. After rush hour, which ended around 9 PM, I was allowed to read my eyes out if I wanted to, as long as I did my chores. That’s how cool my bosses were. I already knew about this novel since I had previously seen the movie adaptation, but what a rush it still was having the chance to get acquainted with it. I had read it many times over since that faithful day but nothing compares to that first connection between the book and reader.
Let’s not mince words here. VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is the grandest, most important piece of work to have ever been published in this genre. Never mind its many carbon copy successors. Nothing surpasses Jackie Susann’s baby. Oh, many have tried, some have even come close but in the end only one novel comes up on top, and we wouldn’t have it in any other way. Why? Simple: VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is as addictive as the pills those three leading ladies gladly take. If you have yet to try this novel I’m warning you it is one effective buzz. Like I, you’ll probably never be the same once consumed. I still have long-term effects as you can probably imagine just by navigating throughout my many reviews on this blog. Before this title came around I was a total horror geek, jumping from one scary read to the next, but once I got my hands on this juicy novel, well, the rest, as they say, is history.
Never have I felt so in synch following the troubles of these protagonists. All three succeeded in charming their ways into my life as if nothing else mattered. It was the first time that I truly experienced what we call a compelling read. It also made me realize that VALLEY OF THE DOLLS was the start of a new phase in my life, one that would eventually involve my own sexuality. You could say that this celebrated novel was my first dib into this so-called gay lifestyle of mine. I say so-called because I never considered myself a label. To me, loving a guy is just that, love. Gender barely matters. It’s the same with my reading choices. I never think of myself as a lover of women’s fiction. I just follow my instincts to what really appeals to me, and suffice to say VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and the likes do, big-time.
The novel got scathing reviews when it first hit the shelves in 1966. Yet that scarcely stopped people from investing their good-earned money in it. It stayed number one on the New-York Times best-seller list for an unprecedented 28 weeks. 28. It would be impossible to have that same longevity nowadays with the current market being overflowed with titles (yes, I’m talking mostly about you Amazon self-publishing services). But back then, my god, talk about a ground breaking success…
Not a week goes by without me hearing something about VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, whether it’s on TV or during a conversation among friends or in some article from the trades. The name and its author are forever imprinted in our minds. Yes, I’ve come to appreciate other genres as the years went on. Heck, I can even say that I’m well-read in my spare time, but nothing will ever come close to my addiction to this type of a novel. It’s in my DNA as I’m sure it is in yours if you’ve reached this part without nodding off. Susann may be already gone (she succumbed to cancer in ’74) but she will forever be remembered from people like us who cherish everything she has ever churned out. How can we not? She is the queen of trash after all.
Until next post—Martin