The Dud Avocado

To be released June 5th, 2007 in America
by The New York Review of Books.

Begining June 6th, Barnes and Noble will honor Elaine Dundy with a spot on the front table in their stores. The publication features an afterword by Elaine and a new introduction by Terry Teachout, drama critic of The Wall Street Journal.

In 1958, The Dud Avocado became a surprise bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic. It was published in many foreign languages and has never been out of print. In Virago's Modern Classics Series, it has gone through many editions over the years. It is now available on Virago UK and UK

Note on book jacket

"The Dud Avocado is the story of a young American girl Sally Jay Gorce's rite of passage; a charming and hilarious novel which gained instant cult status on first publication and remains a timeless and inspiring portrait of a woman hell bent on living."

Elaine Dundy comments:

Elaine at the time of puclication of The Dud Avocado This novel has a special place in my heart. It was my first novel and because of the warmth of its reception over the years, it has become a dearly beloved child to me.I remember so well how I actually began writing it: One morning I opened a notebook and wrote: "I was walking down the street one day when suddenly-" A good beginning, I thought: I'm setting Sally Jay up for all hell to break loose. But what street was she walking down? As the street grew clearer, I saw it was in Paris. It was a boulevard. And some months later, that first sentence finally became "It was a hot, peaceful optimistic sort of day in September. It was about eleven in the morning I remember and I was drifting down the Boulevard St. Michel thoughts rising in my head like little puffs of smoke when suddenly…" And I had to figure out - suddenly what? Somebody stops Sally Jay, of course. The man she will fall in love with? Undecided. Sally Jay is an actress and Larry who stops her is an actor and they already know each other and they go to a café when suddenly again-what? She sees her lover, an Italian Diplomat…." And I was off.

The only person I really knew anything about for starters was the "I" of the story; of the rest of the characters and the plot I had only the vaguest idea. But I knew Sally Jay was wearing an evening dress mid-day walking down that boulevard because I, myself, had worn an evening dress for a couple of days in Paris mid-day before I managed to get to the cleaners to retrieve the rest of my clothes. Of the various things that happen to Sally Jay, some had also happened to me. I must add, however, that often when I got stuck I would say to myself, "What would I not do?" And then have Sally Jay do it; and I would be off again.

What did happen to both Sally Jay and myself was discovering that famous Parisian boulevard, the Champs Elysees. My initial response to it came out pretty much the way my heroine's did when first she viewed it.
All at once I found myself standing there gazing down that enchanted Boulevard in the blue, blue evening. Here was all the gaiety, glory and sparkle I knew was going to be life if I could just grasp it. I began floating down those Elysian Fields three inches off the ground as easily as a Cocteau character floats through Hell. Luxury and order seemed to be shining from every street lamp along the Boulevard, shining from every window of its toy-shops and dress-shops, its cafes and cinemas and theatres; from its bonbonneries and parfumeries and nighteries. Talk about seeing Eternity in a Grain of Sand and Heaven in a Wild Flower, I really think I was having some sort of mystic revelation then…"
Only what happened in real time was that when I first started "gazing down that enchanted boulevard" I was dismayed at the way it looked. Grim. Dark. Unintersting. Then I saw a street sign indicating I was not on the Champs Elysees. I was on the wrong boulevard. So I re-traced my footsteps took the correct turning and floated into the epiphany as quoted in the previous paragraph.

It was around then, in Paris, that I became aware of something about myself only previously suspected. I had an alter ego, a second self, a not so ghostly increasingly intrusive highly comic character whom I had to acknowledge. In fact whose presence I could no longer deny. I had to accept her, had to give her space, for she would pop up getting things wrong when I least expected her to.

When the book was finished and sold to an excellent publisher, in its five months before publication I found myself embarking on what I still believe to be the smoothest, fastest, most exhilarating ride anyone has ever taken from novice to novelist. I had an excellent editor; and excellent agent; foreign rights were quickly sold; excerpts of it landed in the glossy magazines. One Sunday morning I woke up to the most blissful reviews imaginable. With success came wonderful, funny and exciting new friends - friends that would last a lifetime. I would never be the same again.

Elaine & Ken on their wedding day, January 25 1951 with Peter Wildeblood, best man and Tessa Prendegast, maid of honour.
Elaine & Ken on their wedding day, January 25 1951 with Peter Wildeblood, best man and Tessa Prendegast, maid of honour.
Reviews of The Dud Avocado

"A dazzling performance as continually attention - holding as a juggler keeping seven swords in the air at the same time. Sally Jay's prose style is wonderfully exuberant and often deliciously witty. A good many shafts of bright satire illuminate these prancing pages." New York Times

"Delightful hours of sparkling reading refreshment." Newsweek

"The great thing about The Dud the way it infects you with Sally Jay's feeling that "The world is wide, wide, wide and we are young, young, young, and we're all going to live forever." New York World Telegram and Sun

"Nothing quite like this has been written before. It is a brilliant entertainment; always witty; often uproariously funny; and never less than felicitously accomplished in the writing" Daniel George Book Society

"One falls for Sally Jay for a great height from the first sentence…" [London] Observer

"Sally Jay is alight with curiosity; neither sophisticated nor naïve but complicated, a member of the turbulent club of youth. The writing like Sally Jay herself, has high spirits and is laced with astringencies" London Sunday Times

A recent review in the Guardian Jan. 1st 2001: "I still have the frayed original copy of this comically wise novel. I found it on my mother's bookcase when I was a teenager who longed like its heroine truly to live life and make as many mistakes as fast as I could. Sally an American in Paris wanders through cafes and bars, beds and friendships. On the way she learns that dyed pink hair doesn't make for an instant personality change, and that champagne can be as dull as Seven-UP. One of the best novels about growing up fast, it can serve as a reminder of abandoned dreams or a peace offering to sulky teenage girls."
The Dud Avocado has been optioned by ChickFlicks of New Line Cinema for a television feature film and the first draft is being worked on. I'll keep you posted.