A New Edition of Valley of the Dolls, Kate Millet’s Sexual Politics, & Bridget Jones

Valley of the dolls susann grove press ST_20160320_DOLL_8_2151126Yes, it’s trashy, but it’s also great, and it tapped into the zeitgeist  in 1966.  As a fan of pop women’s fiction, I was interested to read in The New York Times that a 50th anniversary edition of Jacqueline Susann’s The Valley of the Dolls will be published by Grove Press in July.   Judy Hottensen, the associate publisher of Grove Atlantic, told the Times  she hopes it will appeal to young women raised on “Girls” and “Sex and the City.”

It took me many years to get around to Valley of the Dolls, and it pleasantly surprised me.  Susann’s pop classic proceeds along the lines of Nancy Hale’s The Prodigal Women and Mary McCarthy’s The Group: it is the story of three young women who move to New York, become friends at the beginning of their careers, and climb the ladder of the entertainment industry, not without much popping of pills.  Anne, the emotionally stable one from New England, works as a secretary and then becomes a model.  She doesn’t need pills (well, only very briefly).    But you can imagine what the pills do to Neely, the Broadway star who becomes a screaming home-wrecking harridan, and Jennifer, the lovely, sweet,  pill-dependent woman who decides to act in French art films because no one values her for anything except her body.

Here’s the jacket copy from my old paperback:

 Dolls: red or black, capsules or tablets, washed down with vodka or swallowed straight–for Anne, Neely, and Jennifer, it doesn’t matter, as long as the pill bottle is within easy reach. These three women become best friends when they are young and struggling in New York City and then climb to the top of the entertainment industry–only to find there’s nowhere to go but down–into the Valley of the Dolls.

All right, this book is not for everybody–but it is for the beach!

2 in The New Republic, Maggie Doherty says Kate Millet’s best-selling 1970 classic of feminist criticism, Sexual Politics, still speaks to us.  (I read this in the seventies, and though I certainly didn’t agree with Millet about D. H. Lawrence, I thought she was astute about Henry Miller and Norman Mailer.)

Kate Millett sexual politics 51h99VUCohL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_3 Barbara Ellen at The Guardian thinks that single women now have things harder than Bridget Jones did in the ’90s. She writes, “The issue is that Bridget Jones is a true creature of the 1990s, and the 1990s not only seem a painfully long time ago, but painfully innocent, too.”

6 thoughts on “A New Edition of Valley of the Dolls, Kate Millet’s Sexual Politics, & Bridget Jones

  1. That’s a good piece by Barbara Ellen, but watching my offspring negotiate the world, I think it’s not only the women that are having a hard time – my children of both sexes have encountered some very strange ones… In many ways, I’m glad I’m not young in this era!

    • Every generation has its problems, and I’m sure you’re right about its applying to both sexes. I love Bridget, but her problems are never as serious as real people’s. The internet has taken things to a new level, good or bad, but I do think Barbara Ellen has a very innocent idea of the innocence of the ’90s. Everybody struggles, every decade. And being single is always difficult!

  2. Alas, Barbara Allen is right. Kate Millett’s book fell off for me towards the end with all the talk about goddesses and myth, but otherwise as more relevant today than ever.

    • I do have Millett’s book and should give it another look. What surprises me is how much I remember of it, considering I read it in junior high. Ah, I HAD forgotten the goddesses. That never means much to me.

  3. Thanks for posting on Valley of the Dolls. I never read it, thinking it beneath me, but I’d like to read it now. I did read The Group when I was in my twenties and was duly impressed. I once taught Bridget Jones in a cultural studies class and the students, some of whom had read Austen, just loved the way it resonated with the 90s. I wonder what their response would be now. I agree that many of today’s young people have it rough. There is genuine despair over the future. It’s not an accident that heroin has become today’s drug of choice. I wonder if they’re writing about it.

    • I finally read VAlley because Virago reissued it about a decade ago! It is pop fiction, not literature, but is worth reading in that it captures the women’s problems in the entertainment industry and dependence on drugs. I also find it interesting to see what speaks to a generation. I love the Bridget Jones books: actually, the Guardian column is a response to a new movie that has nothing whatever to do with the last (very light) book Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, in which she is a widow with two children. But being single is very hard, and it’s interesting to see what women feel about it.

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