Monday 18 June 2012

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - Anita Loos

Amongst my towering pile of current (but not very active) reads, I mentioned Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos.  One or two of you encouraged me to return to it, and I am never one to turn down the call to read a short novel from the 1920s.

Lorelei is the blonde in question, going around America and Europe bewitching rich men and thinking deep thoughts.  These thoughts she has been encouraged to note down in her diary... she is admirably determined to educate herself, but rather more determined to secure diamond tiaras etc. from the gentlemen she encounters.  She is not aided by her unrefined friend Dorothy, whom I absolutely love - Lorelei attempts to refine her, but Dorothy's slang and insults ("Lady, if we hurt your dignity like you hurt our eyesight I hope for your sake, you are a Christian science") are thankfully unfettered by decorum - they're hilarious.

The joy of the novel is the voice Loos creates for her blonde.  Almost every sentence begins 'So' or 'I mean', and her deep thoughts are about as perceptive as her spelling is correct.  Typos today are, for once, not my own work.
I am going to stay in bed this morning as I am quite upset as I saw a gentleman who quite upset me.  I am not really sure it was the gentleman, as I saw him a quite a distants in the bar, but if it really is the gentleman it shows that when a girl has a lot of fate in her life it is sure to keep on happening.
I haven't seen the film musical, with Marilyn Monroe, but I think I'm going to now.  At the time of publication, it was hugely successful - the second best selling title of 1926 (although published in 1925), and Edith Wharton called it 'The great American novel.'  I wonder how tongue-in-cheek she was being?

As the beauty of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is in the style, I'll give you another excerpt - one which gets across quite how beguiling the young woman is:
So Mr. Jennings helped me quite a lot and I stayed in his office about a year when I stayed in his office about a year when I found out he was not the kind of gentleman that a young girl is safe with.  I mean one evening when I went to pay a call on him at his apartment, I found a girl there who really was famous all over Little Rock for not being nice.  So when I found out that girls like that paid calls on Mr. Jennings I had quite a bad case of hysterics and my mind was really a blank and when I came out of it, it seems that I had a revolver in my hand and it seems that the revolver had shot Mr. Jennings.
Because everyone at the trial except the District Attorney was really lovely to me and all the gentlemen in the jury all cried when my lawyer pointed at me and told them that they practically all had had either a mother or a sister.  So the jury was only out three minutes and then they came back and acquitted me and they were all so lovely that I really had to kiss all of them and when I kissed the judge he had tears in his eyes and he took me right home to his sister.
So, I mean, I liked the novel a lot - I didn't find it quite as uproariously funny as some people evidently do, and I think the joke would wear a little thin if it were stretched beyond the 150pp of this novel - but it was great fun while it lasted.  And I do have the even shorter sequel, But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, in the other half of this edition, starting from the other side and meeting in the middle... I'll report back in due course.


  1. Hi Simon

    It reads like the "Valley Girl" style of speaking today.
    Just yesterday I was walking in front of two young women whose conversation went like this:

    "So he says like yea aah you can come for lunch and I goes like yea I'd like that and yea no who knew he would ask me out like it was so unexpected yea"

    I think I shall pass on the book too

  2. The film is very fun, Simon! I hope you do make the time to watch it. I think I picked the book up years and years ago but found the style grating rather than enjoyably silly, so never made it all the way through.

  3. I was trying to work out how long ago I actually read this book (probably in the same edition as yours as mine had the sequel attached too) but I have a nasty feeling that it might have been before you were born!
    I did enjoy it though and it certainly enlivened the flight to Greece on which I read it! and agree with Helen that it is definitely in the same style as Valley Girl (and the English equivalent if the conversation I overheard between two schoolgirls on the bus was anything to go by - I do hope my children didn't sound quite that dim at the same age!)

    1. Just realised that I should have previewed the above comment before posting as I would have realised that I should have replaced 'and' with 'I' before agreeing with Helen - I'm not usually illiterate or prone to typos!
      BTW just spotted William by E H Young in your Top 50 column and read your post about it which is very useful as I have just acquired a copy of it, bought on the strength of E H Young's name because the edition is an old orange Penguin with absolutely no information on what it is about!
      I thought it was worth a go because I loved Miss Mole and a couple of others by the same author, and after reading your post, I am very pleased that I did and look forward to reading it very soon! Thanks!

  4. I didn't realise it was a novel first, but I love the film so I'll be on the look out for a copy of the book. I'd say from your review that the film is similar enough in nature to be enjoyable.

  5. The film is wonderfully funny. And if I could type little letters of shame here, I would say that I preferred it to the book because the girly-dialect, although appropriate, annoyed the hell out of me to read. It works so much better spoken.

  6. Oh, fantastic - didn't even know it was a novel. And if it's a short novel that's even better(!)


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