Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Monday, May 05, 2008

What a Life! What a Dame!: Elaine Dundy, 1921-2008

Elaine Dundy, author of The Dud Avocado, passed away last week at the age of 86.

Though best known for the semi-autobiographical adventures of Sally Jay Gorce, an American screwball on the loose in Paris, Dundy was also the author of several other novels and Elvis and Gladys, a study of the relationship between Elvis and his mother, described as "the best Elvis book yet."

My favorite of Dundy's works is her memoir, Life Itself!, which is quite simply the loveliest, liveliest, wittiest, most eyebrow-raising, side-splitting memoir I've ever read. Here are a few of my favorite moments from it:

On giving a disastrous class presentation on "arson": "When you have got it firmly lodged in your head that arson is a chemical, a batch of newspaper clippings with headlines such as: 'Ten Die in Warehouse Blaze - Arson Suspected' is not going to dislodge it."

On discovering rampant anti-Semitism at Sweet Briar College: "My shit list was growing apace and I had only been there for two months."

On not buying a jar of peanut butter: "I was the only one in our household who ate it and the thought struck me with force that our marriage was not going to last before I finished it."

On the kinkiness of the British: "Of course Englishmen love flagellation. It's the only time they ever get touched as children."

Some other remembrances of Dundy can be found at:

Elvis News
Quiet Bubble: "Roy Turner, her old friend and late-period amanuensis, said that “she died doing exactly what she loved most: she had a heart attack in mid-conversation with someone famous and interesting.”
A Different Stripe


Julie said...

Wow -- I never heard of her before, but she sounds like a real trip!

DK said...

From Terry Teachout's blog,
"Still no Elaine Dundy obituary in the New York Times--or any other newspaper, so far as I know. Don't these people read blogs? Or books published prior to 1995? Or anything?"

Teachout was the person who got The Dud Avocado back into print and wrote the introduction.

mary_m said...

I saw Terry Teachout's blog post this morning, and went straight to the L.A. Times obits page, thinking, "She lived in L.A., surely the Times is on the ball here."

But no. I'm truly baffled about this.