Thirty-eight years after Jacqueline Susann's death, her books somehow manage to be both dated and relevant at the same time.
Susann's 1966 bestseller Valley of the Dolls certainly doesn't read like it was written yesterday. Characters wear the fashions of the time (some of which are actually back in style today, but not enough to keep the book from showing its age). The writing has that wide-eyed hipness common in the 1960s, and the references can be unrecognizable to a modern audience ("The fellow not only expects me to keep my job, but at the same time I should look like Carole Landis in a negligee while I whip up a few gourmet dishes."). From the outmoded fashions to the dated current events to the casual racial slurs ("Latins are always a little crazy"), it's clearly a book that saw its day many years ago.
But the themes at its heart are just as current as they can be. Valley of the Dolls tapped into our prurient fascination with the lives of the richer and more famous… especially the seamier details of those lives.
Feuds, romantic drama and self-destruction, parties, drugs and sex… they all feature prominently in the novel's thinly-veiled portrayal of stars like Judy Garland and Ethel Merman. They're the same sorts of juicy tidbits we greedily turn to reality TV and tabloids for today. Over the years, the names of the stars have changed (Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Amanda Bynes), but our obsession with their bad deeds hasn't. That's what keeps Valley of the Dolls fresher than most of its pop-novel contemporaries… and it's what makes us remember Jacqueline Susann today.
Written by Linnea Crowther