Saturday, September 15, 2012
Once is Not Enough by Jacqueline Susann (1973)
Following on the success of The Valley of the Dolls and The Love Machine, Once is Not Enough (1973) was the last book the rather fascinating Susann published before her death from cancer in 1974 (her Wikipedia article is worth a read).
There are so many plots and sub-plots in this baby that I could spend all day writing, but I'll try to hit the highlights via some character descriptions:
1. Mike Wayne is a famous, handsome, and rich movie producer. After his wife kills herself (depressed and lonely because of his constant affairs), he puts his young daughter in an elite boarding school and continues his playboy lifestyle. When his luck and money run out, he marries a rich woman so that he can keep up his lifestyle and provide for his daughter.
2. January Wayne is Mike's beautiful and naive daughter who grew up infatuated with her larger than life and often absent father. She has a serious Electra complex and no other man can compare to Mike in her eyes. After she graduates from boarding school she goes to Italy with Mike as he works on a movie. After a forward suitor nearly rapes her, she and he get a motorcycle accident that leaves her in a coma. She spends three years recovering and learning to walk again at an isolated hospital in Switzerland, and when she returns to New York the flower children have bloomed and she is unprepared to be thrown into a world of free love and open drug use.
3. Dee Milford Granger is one of the richest women in the world, and she wants Mike Wayne as her husband because it would look good for the cameras. She is determined to set January up with her nephew, David Milford, and isn't afraid to wield the power of her inheritance to push the two of them together.
4. Karla is a Greta Garbo / Marlene Dietrich hybrid -- a reclusive Polish beauty who has retired from an iconic film career. She is simultaneously having an affair with David and with Dee, although neither one knows about the other. An intense subplot follows her back to her tragic experiences WWII-era Poland.
5. Linda Riggs went to boarding school with January and is now the editor of a successful women's magazine. Since writing for women's magazines is a very popular pursuit for wealthy "career girls" of the 1960s, January naturally starts writing for Linda. Linda in turn introduces January to all the hip new attitudes, pursuits and pharmaceuticals of late-1960s New York.
6. Tom Colt (!) is the Jack Daniels guzzling Hemingway/Mailoresque author to whom January transfers all her unrequited father-figure lust.
January wants Mike, Mike doesn't seem to want anybody, Dee wants Karla, David wants Karla, Karla wants David and Dee, Linda wants everybody, January wants Tom, Tom ironically has a tiny dick and only sometimes wants January. And then people die! And January starts doing lots of drugs (starting with some "vitamin shots" [aka speed], and moving to crazy acid trips, including a hallucination-induced near jump out of a high window!).
The writing isn't great, but it isn't horrible either, and it has a fast pace with lots of sex and intrigue mixed in. This clip from the 1975 movie of the book is indicative of the very blatant psychology and "feminism" of the novel, but the trashy fun of the novel definitely loses something in the plodding literalism of the movie script.
If you were one of the dozen people who borrowed my copy of Wifey by Judy Blume, I'm pretty sure you would be interested in this one too. Although reading it once probably is enough.