Valley of the Dolls

Jacqueline Susann

After seeing the movie version recently, I heard that the book is apparently excellent as well — in that “so bad, it’s good” sort of way, of course. I’d been struggling to get into Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives and felt like I could use something a little trashier for crowded commutes on the N train. For that, it was perfect. The story is melodramatic and entirely schlocky, focusing on three women who meet in New York and remain friends for decades as they all pursue showbiz careers. Many of the characters are apparently inspired by Susann’s experiences in 1940s Hollywood.

The book and the movie are very similar yet curiously differ in big ways. Characters disappear or get melded together into the movie, which is to be expected, but then there are several major plot points that were reworked entirely. The movie ends up being overall more hopeful, but the book in many ways seems more realistic (if soap-operatic fiction can come across like realism).

Now I just need to see Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, a “pastiche” of the movie. IMDb reports, “Susann submitted a screenplay for a sequel to Valley of the Dolls, but when Fox found it unsatisfactory, Susann’s contract gave them the right to concoct a follow-up of their own. This was the result.”