Monday, November 19, 2018

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes / Anita Loos; illustrated by Ralph Barton.
New York: Penguin, 1998, c1925.
123 p.

Finally read this classic: it's a fictional diary of a working girl whose plans are to catch that gentleman, eventually! 

For some reason I always thought this was a much later book - probably because of the movie featuring Marilyn Monroe - but it was published in 1925, in the heyday of flappers and It Girls and excessive wealth being splashed around everywhere. It really reeks of the Twenties! 

In the intro, it notes that this was the first American novel to make fun of sex; while I'm not sure about the claim, it certainly does make light of all the gentlemen that the diarist Lorelei and her best frenemy Dorothy encounter. 

It's written as if it were Lorelei's actual diary, with spelling and grammatical errors intact. It gets her voice and perspective across very convincingly, with quite a number of little throwaway lines changing the reader's perception of what's happening. Loos had great comic timing. 

This is a short novel, but very entertaining, full of events, travel, shenanigans and so on. Lorelei is a little dippy and self-deceiving about her aims, but friend Dorothy is no-nonsense, acerbic, straightforward, and a great foil to Lorelei. All the most venal and commercial instincts that Lorelei has in regards to her gentlemen she attributes to Dorothy. They are a pair of gold-diggers out for themselves, but their complete self-absorption reflects a sense of this era and its effects on these young women. Their search for financial security is flightier, sexier and funnier (and more successful) than, say, Lily Bart's in The House of Mirth twenty years earlier, but the same dependence on men's money for women's security is the central theme. 

If you haven't read this one, but have seen the movie, well.... the book is better. Give it a read if you need something utterly amusing. 

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