The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

published 1958 chapter 4

The day my laundry came back, I took out all my clothes and spread them around the room for Judy and me to look at. I was determined that for once, for just once in my life, when I went to those readings, I would be wearing the ‘right’ thing. The right thing in this case had to be something general; something that wouldn’t type me. To my chagrin, I found all my clothes stubbornly resisting this desired neutrality, splitting themselves resolutely into three categories: Tyrolean Peasant, Bar Girl, and Dreaded Librarian. It looked hopeless. Fortunately, I did have a black cotton skirt, and Judy, by some coincidence, had a black cotton blouse with a white collar. So, the problem at last solved, I climbed happily into the outfit, and pranced off in the direction of the theatre.

observations: Should be read with earlier blog entry on this book.

Sally Jay Gorce is auditioning for a role in a play put on by other expat Americans in Paris in the 50s. She is very good – and funny – on clothes; those three categories of clothes often seem to describe exactly the Clothes in Books wardrobe when looking for the right outfit. (Yes yes, don’t complain, we know librarians wear the same clothes as everyone else, we’re thinking about the idea the phrase summons.)

Clothes, social life, boyfriends – she is very specific about Paris, but many of her problems resonate with anyone who has been 20-something. Her description of giving her first dinner party is hilarious: “Any moron can cook a steak, I kept saying to myself…. Everybody was terribly kind and cooperative at dinner and it took all four of us ceaselessly moiling and toiling from kitchen to studio and back again to organize and consume a simple meal…” The writer Katherine Whitehorn used it in her Cooking in a Bedsitter as an example of what not to do  - that was my first introduction to The Dud Avocado, a long long time ago, and both books can take me straight back to that period in my life.

Elaine Dundy was married to the critic Kenneth Tynan, and she mentions him in passing – a character says “Met an Englishman called Tynan in Spain a while ago and he put me in his bullfight book…”

Links on the blog: Previous entry on the book. Noel Streatfeild does a good line in dressing for auditions, as does Dodie Smith.

The picture, by Modigliani, is in the Museum of Grenoble.


  1. Moira - Oh, this sounds like a terrific coming-of-age sort of story although these aren't exactly teens. I remember when I was a girl that age just learning to dress for different occasions and cook meals for company. I'll bet there's plenty of humour in this one.


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