Friday, October 06, 2006

Thank Goodness for Anita Loos' "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"

As I sit here preparing for a weekend during which I suspect I'll be left "up a creek" by the folks I depend upon, my sanity and good cheer is being maintained by Anita Loos' 1925 novel "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." It's probably the blackest humour I've ever read. If you love making bitter fun of stupid people who think they're smart, this is the book you should get.

It's a "diary" written by "Lorelei Lee," a dim-witted, beautiful gold-digger without any scruples. She thinks she's brilliant and couth, but every paragraph of her diary fills you with the cringing, joyful irony of her idiocy. The joy of the novel comes from the gradual repetition of Lorelei's prejudices, gaffes, and misunderstandings, but here's just one excerpt that stands alone:

Lorelei has gone to Paris with her vulgar friend Dorothy. Lorelei is convinced that she went there to "educate" Dorothy and herself, but -- as always -- she's really there to see how much loot she can get from random horny, bewildered men. And Dorothy just wants to have sex with anybody, gift or no gift. (Just in case you don't know, the "Coty" Lorelei mentions in this excerpt is Fran├žois Coty, the 20th century perfume manufacturer)

And when a girl walks around and reads all of the signs with all of the famous historical names it really makes you hold your breath. Because when Dorothy and I went on a walk, we only walked a few blocks but in only a few blocks we read all of the famous historical names, like Coty and Cartier and I knew we were seeing something educational at last and our whole trip was not a failure. I mean I really try to make Dorothy get educated and have a reverance. So when we stood at a corner of a place called the Place Vendome, if you turn your back on a monument they have in the middle and look up, you can see none other than Coty's sign. So I said to Dorothy, does it not really give you a thrill to realize that that is the historical spot where Mr Coty makes all the perfume? So then Dorothy said that she supposed Mr Coty came to Paris and he smelled Paris and he realized that something had to be done. So Dorothy will really never have any reverance.

So then we saw a jewelry store and we saw some jewelry in the window and it really seemed to be a very very great bargain but the price marks all had francs on them and Dorothy and I do not seem to be mathematical enough to tell how much francs is in money. So we went in and asked and it seems it was only 20 dollars and it seems it is not diamonds but it is a thing called 'paste' which is the name of a word which means imitations. So Dorothy said 'paste' is the name of the word a girl ought to do to a gentleman that handed her one. I mean I would really be embarassed, but the gentleman did not seem to understand Dorothy's english.

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