“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.” – Mark Twain
Since catching up on interviews and run ins with Girls at Library, the interview they laid out with girlboss Hillary Kerr, and her recommendation of what consisted of her “Sanity Shelf”, I wouldn’t be here today discussing what is now a part of my personal Sanity Shelf – Valley of the Dolls. Let’s get started. If you haven’t read the 1960s cult literary novel Valley of the Dolls, I won’t spare a good spoil, so I will do my best to just give you my thoughtful ends on it and not ruin any surprises.
Business is business and after reading Valley of the Dolls, I had to ask the question: I want to career, the notoriety and attention toward my successes in life, but is my life and dignity really worth it? Would I really risk substituting objects to filling voids in place of love? Succumbing to numbness and taking everything how it comes.
Before starting the book, I read the intro where reviewers and critics deemed the book as “dirty”. Today, you can’t help but have a flash of a specific public figure in Hollywood or any show business who fit the bill according to these characters. I was thinking okay serious sex and drugs would be written on every page, but Susann placed those scenarios in beautifully to fit the growth, awareness, and exposed nature of the characters to their lives in New York and Hollywood. Jacqueline Susann was definitely on to something when she constructed this literary genius of a book. With references to Broadway and Hollywood gems like Judy Garland, you can’t help but think, did these women really live like this? I honestly think this book resembles life if Mad Men focused solely on the women and how they cope with life, love, and their careers in the 1940s – 1960s. From cigarettes to whiskey to those “little dolls,” you can’t help but to think these women are crazy. When I read it, I slept thinking which character resonated with me the most. Anne Welles- the girl from small town Lawrenceville, Jennifer North – whose looks provided a placeholder for her talent, and Nelly O’Hara (last name ring any literary bells readers?) – threatening triple talent leads her to be the ‘IT’ girl in show business. Sure, this is just the tip of the iceberg with these three ladies, but as I was reading the book, I kept placing my own life in these character’s shoes.
“I didn’t have dough handed to me because of my good cheekbones, I had to earn it.” – Neely O’Hara
Raised in Alabama I felt that my dreams and ideas were just that, dreams and ideas. As I got older, I realized that those thoughts had to die and I was meant to live my life bigger and better. I know there are people out there will to do anything and everything to get the things they want, me I will sacrifice and do all I can through hard work to the career and life I want (thanks Neely). After reading this book, I had to rethink myself once more. Having dreams of moving to New York and living in a big city of dreams and opportunity like character Anne Welles and following her life over a span (that felt like) 16 years, and the ending of broken love and filling voids just to get by, is it really worth it? Sure, I would never do the things these women did, but life will definitely throw you curve balls and you have to take it as it comes.
With an English degree, I did all I could to not critic or over analyze the novel for times were much different back then compared to now. From success, riches, big breaks, notoriety, global dominance, the Hollywood Hills, love, rehab, alcohol, sex, men, clubbing, cigarettes, tears, looney house, and death, this book puts it all into perspective.
What did I take away from this book: don’t spend your life filling the voids just to get by in life. Everyone wants that life in Hollywood or show business and international success, or just that big spot in whatever career or job she does. Once you find that success, the love (or any romance) that may come with it, when you really think about it, is it really love to begin with? Readers will know who and what I am talking about with that question. Everyone can relate to one character or another in this book. For me, it was both Anne, wanting to live in the big city and start a new career and life, and Jennifer, wanting to find love and be loved in return (but not the cost at the end). I wholeheartedly believe that everyone woman should read this book. Sure, the era may be completely different and farfetched (and glamorous I must add) from what we are seeing or going through today, but I believe any woman wanting to work in a high – profile business, make it in show business, or just trying to get by in life this book will open your eyes to some major similarities you or someone you know may be encountering.
I have to ask: Are you happy? What are willing to do for love? Are you settling?
P.S: The book should be called Seconals Valley (not in reference to sounding like Silicon Valley) or Drowning in Seconds, but I will let you pick up the book for yourself to figure out the puns.
Thank you again to the ladies over at Girls at Library and the amazing Hillary Kerr for the recommendation! Keep them coming ladies! Now I just need to watch the movie. I vote for a remake of this film! Spread the word.
Hopefully in the near future, I can have a sit down with the GAL team and Hillary Kerr herself to gawk in the amazement of this timeless novel and get a few signatures. I hope I can now say I am a part of this bond and literary sisterhood.