I’m currently reading The Love Machine, the only book by Jacqueline Susann that I’ve never read. I think subconsciously, I was holding off so that I would always have one more Susann novel to read. But finally, I’m giving in…and it’s yummy.
You may know Ms. Susann from her bigger success, Valley of the Dolls, which is one of the trashiest, shallowest, silliest, most eye-roll inducing books ever written. It’s also one of my favorites.
Trash romance novels are one thing. A Jacqueline Susann trash romance novel is quite another. She is the absolute queen of them, and the number of her books is painfully limited—she only wrote five romances before she died. There’s something about the mixture of her cliché characters and cardboard writing that somehow just works.
It may be the high volume of campy drama…
Woven into the dizzying heights of quick success…
Blended with the oh-so-cheesy romance.
It could be that Ms. Susann simply wrote about what she would find interesting. Whatever it is that makes her novels work is difficult to put your finger on, but it did make her into an icon. It also makes her books easy to gulp down in one sitting, even though they tend to be pretty long.
I usually have no tolerance for badly-written books, but Jaqueline’s writing is so straightforward that it’s almost not bad.
Okay…who I am kidding? It’s totally bad. Gore Vidal said, “Jacqueline Susann doesn’t write; she types.” Even so, there’s something irresistible to me about her novels. It may just be the girl in me, but I love the dumb starlets, the broken-hearted secretaries, the fading legends, and the trash-talking spitfires that dance across the pages of her books. Not to mention the ice-cold lady killers!
And these stories are as catty as your gay uncle. Here are some of my favorite lines from Valley of the Dolls:
Anne: Neely, you know it’s bad to take liquor with those pills.
Neely: They work faster this way!
Anne’s Mother: You’re a lady, Anne. That’s why you don’t like kissing. No lady does.
Mel: It’s a rotten business!
Neely: I know. But I love it!
Tony: Jen! I can’t feel my legs!!!
Although I did use stills above from the movie adaptation they made, I would advise you to avoid watching the movie. It’s so badly made. It’s basically all the fluff without any of the delicious whipped cream.
Every once in awhile, I like to indulge in something light, and books don’t really come any lighter than these. As for now, I will savor The Love Machine and go as slowly as I possibly can with it. After that, there is literally no more Ms. Susann for me. I’ll have to be satisfied with Faulkner or Salinger, who just don’t have enough dumb blonde starlets in their books to satisfy me.