Insatiable Appetites: Twentieth-Century American Women's Bestsellers

By Madonne M. Miner | Go to book overview

plague and comforts herself with the thought that no matter how often he has left her in the past, she possesses him fully during his sickness and convalescence), but Bruce always extricates himself, leaving Amber with empty arms. Winsor presents Amber's failure most clearly in a short but definitive exchange between heroine and hero. After pushing Bruce to admit that he loves her, Amber asks why Bruce won't marry her. He responds that love has nothing to do with his marriage. Amber then protests that love has everything to do with it, that the two of them no longer are children who must obey parents, but are adults who may do as they please. Bruce is right, however; love has nothing to do with his refusal to marry Amber. He refuses because a marriage between these two would violate the oedipal fantasy which Forever Amber allows its readers to indulge. 24 Essentially, in Amber readers find a heroine who acts out desires they experience, but repress; with Amber these readers may wage war on mother, frolic with father--and do so safely, because Amber never succeeds in making this frolic official. Further, readers may enjoy Amber's disappointment on the marriage market; obviously, since Amber "suffers for her sins" it is Amber--and not a reader--who must be guilty of oedipal desires.

Thus, Forever Amber offers its female readers pleasure without guilt, experience without the repercussions of experience. This marvelously conservative economy of fantasy (which is very much in keeping with the novel's social conservatism since you do not really want to be a happy harlot; better you should be grateful for your stodgy but reliable husband and two tiresome children) guarantees that Winsor's novel will be--in the words of William Du Bois--"a booksellers' natural."


Notes
1.
Bennett Cerf, "Trade Winds," Saturday Review of Literature 27 ( Nov. 4, 1944), p. 18.
2.
Richard Mealand, "Books into Film," Publishers' Weekly ( Sept. 16, 1944), p. 999.
3.
Cerf, p. 18.
4.
Life, 17 ( Oct. 30, 1944), pp. 41-44.
5.
According to figures in Eighty Years of Bestsellers by Alice Payne Hackett and James Henry Burke ( New York: R. R. Bowker, 1977), the combined total for hardcover and paperback sales of Forever Amber as of 1975 was 2,925,268 (p. 14).
6.
Quoted by Cerf, p. 18.

-55-

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Insatiable Appetites: Twentieth-Century American Women's Bestsellers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Women's Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction: "Guaranteed to Please the Female Reader" 3
  • Notes 11
  • 1 - Gone with the Wind: And the Cupboard Was Bare"" 14
  • Notes 32
  • 2 - Forever Amber: Swollen Up like a Stuffed Toad"" 35
  • Notes 55
  • 3 - Peyton Place: The Uses--And Abuses--Of Enchantment"" 58
  • Notes 74
  • 4 - Valley of the Dolls: Wow! What an Orgy!"" 78
  • Notes 98
  • 5 - Scruples: It's as Addictive as Chocolate"" 101
  • Notes 123
  • Conclusion 126
  • Notes 141
  • Bibliography 143
  • Index 153
  • About the Author 159
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