Insatiable Appetites: Twentieth-Century American Women's Bestsellers

By Madonne M. Miner | Go to book overview

Orsini perceives herself as a container without contents, a hollow woman. As a child, Honey recognizes that she is different from her schoolmates, all of whom "had mothers and brothers and sisters" (p. 42); as an adult she acknowledges an "emptiness within" (p. 208) and "empty spaces of her life" (p. 289). Over the years, she repeatedly attempts to discover something of substance with which to fill the void inside her. Finally, despite steps toward a self-awareness, Billy remains caught within a life-long pattern of compensatory consumption. Incapable of stepping outside this pattern so as to analyze--and thus, perhaps, resolve--needs and desires originally motivating it, Billy engages in a process of accelerated repetition, consuming more and more, and encouraging others (more specifically, other women) to lead lives of consumption. As such, Billy conspires in perpetuating an essentially inhumane and sexist market system. Preying upon emotional/physical hungers, this system promises to fill our empty stomachs and our empty lives at the same time it further sharpens our appetites and devalues our integrity as individuals. Elizabeth Fox- Genovese, in an essay on the modern American market system, finds the essence of this system in Bloomingdale's on a Saturday afternoon, in "the glitter of objects and garb, each promising to relieve the anxiety [of any' individual customer] by creating a self through possession of commodities." 20 Clearly, Fox-Genovese's articulation of the role of Bloomingdale's within this system may be applied to Billy's boutique-- and, more generally, to Krantz Scruples, a novel so cluttered with commodities that it literally becomes the boutique after which it is named.


Notes
1.
For more complete descriptions of this phenomenon, see Susan Porter Benson , "Palace of Consumption and Machine for Selling: The American Department Store, 1880-1940," Radical History Review 21 (Fall 1979), pp. 199-217; Kennedy Fraser, "On and Off the Avenue," New Yorker ( May 11, 1981), pp. 132-35; and Jesse Kornbluth, "The Department Store as Theatre," New York Times Magazine ( April 29, 1979), pp. 30-32, 65-66, 68, 72, 74.
2.
Judith Krantz, Scruples ( New York: Warner Books, 1978), p. 7. All further page citations from this text are from this edition and will appear in parentheses within the body of my chapter.
3.
Judith Krantz, quoted by Herbert Mitgang, "Behind the Bestsellers," New York Times Book Review ( March 19, 1978), p. 50; Cosmopolitan critic David

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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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