Friday, 2 January 2009

The Dud Avocado

I enjoyed Loobylu's review of this book so much I had to read it for myself. Normally she reads books while stirring pots at the stove or stopped at red lights, but as her copy of The Dud Avocado is so well-thumbed she needed a hand to hold each cover for fear the pages would fall out. 

I liked how she wrote nothing of the contents of this little known classic but rather, about her experience of reading it. As a result I too was unusually aware of how and not just what I was reading.

When I ordered the book online, I requested the first available copy within our network of libraries, which just happened to be a large print book. I have never read a large print book before and I was happy for the new experience, thinking it might also be a good thing for my eyes.

I took this book away with us to the beach. Usually I only read books that fit inside my everyday bag, but I liked that this was one was large: I was on holiday from my usual sized books and I was on holiday from reading nonfiction too. As there was no shade at the beach, I used its size to block out the sun as I lay on my back, my arms outstretched like a sundial.

Have you ever been out somewhere and seen a group of young women completely dolled up to the nines, talking too loudly on their phones and to each other? They take photos of themselves in pose after pose and all huddle round the camera to laugh too loudly at the outcome on the screen. Sally Jay Gorce, the novel's protagonist is one of these young women, (except that it was published in pre-digital 1958), but despite her youth and vapidity, she does manage to endear herself to the reader with her wit and observations.

I was ready to give the book the flick when I first started reading it. I only persevered as I was searching for the reason it was included in the NY Review Books Classics series, and also because the book is loosely based on author Elaine Dundy's real life experiences in Paris when she was a 21 year-old.

While I read this book I also re-read the journals I wrote when I spent three months in India as a 25 year-old. Reading about my own impetuous audacity as a young traveller definitely helped me see Sally Jay with more affection and with confidence that she too will grow up and take steps towards living a life less self-centred and less self-conscious.

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