Saturday, August 20, 2011

Happy Birthday, Jackie dahling!

   Jacqueline Susann wrote several novels, but she is probably best known for her cult classic, Valley of the Dolls, a novel that chronicles the lives of 3 women as they attempt to climb the social ladder into stardom.  The women are connected through their involvement in a  Broadway play, but the pressure of the glitz and glamor of Broadway and Hollywood are too much, and they fall prey to pill addiction (a.k.a. "dolls").  I read Valley of the Dolls in high school, and I loved it.  It's kind of a long, epic story, but the characters' descent into depression and addiction is one of those disasters you can't look away from.

   If Valley of the Dolls is too heavy for you, one of her other books that I enjoyed very much is called Every Night, Josephine!, Susann's biographical work about life with her very spoiled poodle.  I understand that dog narratives have been very popular recently, but I'm guessing that this book was one of the firsts to conquer the subject of pampered pets with big personalities.  Even if you're not a dog person, Every Night, Josephine! is a good read.  It's a quick, funny little memoir that touches on companionship, marriage, compromises, and (of course) spoiled little poodles.

   Jacqueline Susann died of cancer in 1973, but her legacy as a writer, and a controversial social presence remains.  In her lifetime, Valley of the Dolls was often criticized for being obscene and trashy.  In turn, rumors persisted that Susann herself was of low moral standards and possibly even a lesbian.  Either way, I think we will continue to see this book on bedside tables, in subways and airplanes for a long time.  The fact is, Jacqueline Susann knew that there is something that attracts us to social disasters and the fall of celebrities.  Based on the amount of celebrity gossip that dominates newsstands and tv shows today, I'd say she was right on the mark with Valley of the Dolls in assuming that the book's subject matter would always have an audience.

Happy Birthday, Jackie Doll!