Insatiable Appetites: Twentieth-Century American Women's Bestsellers

By Madonne M. Miner | Go to book overview

she imagines the trees singing "Good-by, Allison! Good-by Allison!"-- and she is ready to wish them a good-by in return. Finally, running to David, she runs not to a paternal prince, but to a man who, like herself, stands at the very beginning of a writing career- a career of active production rather than passive consumption. Thus, we might imagine these two, not in Peyton Place, but in New York, not "happily ever after," but struggling, struggling to banish fantasies imposed by the past so as to construct realities for the future. 27


Notes
1.
Grace Metalious, Peyton Place ( New York: Dell, 1956), p. 185. All further page citations from Peyton Place are from this edition and will be included within parentheses in my text.
2.
Figures compiled by Alice Payne Hackett and James Henry Burke in Eighty Years of Bestsellers ( New York: R. R. Bowker Co., 1977) place Metalious's novel tenth on a combined (hardcover and paperback) listing of all bestsellers in America between 1895 and 1975. Over 10,600,000 copies have been sold (p. 10).
3.
The ambition of a twentieth-century housewife, "to write and be a celebrity," differs considerably from that of the nineteenth-century "mad scribbling woman." The latter, almost without exception, wrote to alleviate pressing financial needs; if she did not turn out so many pages a week, her family did not eat. As Nina Baym, in Woman's Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and about Women in America 1820-1870 ( Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978), notes: the nineteenth-century woman saw "authorship as a profession rather than a calling, as work and not art" (p. 32).
4.
For a critical, rather than novelistic, analysis of fairy tales' pernicious presentation of woman's estate, see Karen E. Rowe "Feminism and Fairy Tales," in Women's Studies 6 ( 1969), pp. 237-57. Two sentences from Rowe's final paragraph must serve as brief summary here: "Whether expressed in pornographic, domestic, and gothic fictions or enacted in the daily relations of men and women, fairy tale visions of romance . . . continue to perpetuate cultural ideals which subordinate women. As a major form of communal or 'folk' lore, they preserve rather than challenge the patriarchy" (p. 253).
5.
See Tania Modleski "The Disappearing Act: A Study of Harlequin Romances," Signs 5 ( 1980), p. 435, for a description of the effect of those Harlequin romance commercials that show "a middle-aged woman lying on her bed holding a Harlequin novel and preparing to begin what she calls her 'disappearing act.' "
6.
Rowe, p. 239.

-74-

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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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