Half a century after Jacqueline Susann’s sensational novel Valley of the Dolls became a best seller, this cult-classic portrait of glamour and excess is enjoying a fabulous comeback. Just as we’d begun preparing our September release of Mark Robson’s 1967 film adaptation, starring Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, and Sharon Tate, we got word that Grove Press was coming out with a fiftieth-anniversary edition of the novel, which tells the sparkling yet sordid tale of three women blinded by the allure of Hollywood. The new edition was released last weekend, and in celebration, many of the book’s admirers have been sharing what continues to fascinate them about it.
In a new interview with NPR, Candace Bushnell, author of Sex and the City, discusses the novel’s influence and enduring relevance. “One of the things that always strikes me is the beginning of the book, when Anne arrives in New York and it’s steamy, it’s very similar to the beginning of The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath,” says Bushnell. “Any time something is a success and it’s about women, it does tend to open the door for more books, more movies, more TV series about women, and in that sense it certainly did.”
Vanity Fair has also published an ode to Susann’s book over on its site, taken from the introduction to the new edition by author and Barneys New York creative ambassador Simon Doonan. After explaining to readers what a treat they’re in for, Doonan warns that, despite its shimmering ’60s facade, “this is not the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Valley of the Dolls is a grim fable. It’s Thomas Hardy dark. It’s Balzac bleak. It’s Dostoyevsky greige. Nothing ends well. Success corrupts. Fame destroys. Dreams become nightmares. Money corrodes. Rich men are pigs. Solid middle-class men are boring. Country life is stifling. Big cities are snake pits. Nobody is nice. Everyone is a mess. It is, in other words, the perfect mirror for today’s culture.”
And for more on all things Valley of the Dolls, read critic Rachel Cooke’s take on the book’s “essential sincerity” in the Guardian, Charles Taylor's review for Barnes & Noble, and Michael Musto’s exploration on Out Magazine’s site of how the film expanded on the novel’s themes.