Amongst my towering pile of current (but not very active) reads, I mentioned Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos. One or two of you encouraged me to return to it, and I am never one to turn down the call to read a short novel from the 1920s.
Lorelei is the blonde in question, going around America and Europe bewitching rich men and thinking deep thoughts. These thoughts she has been encouraged to note down in her diary… she is admirably determined to educate herself, but rather more determined to secure diamond tiaras etc. from the gentlemen she encounters. She is not aided by her unrefined friend Dorothy, whom I absolutely love – Lorelei attempts to refine her, but Dorothy’s slang and insults (“Lady, if we hurt your dignity like you hurt our eyesight I hope for your sake, you are a Christian science”) are thankfully unfettered by decorum – they’re hilarious.
The joy of the novel is the voice Loos creates for her blonde. Almost every sentence begins ‘So’ or ‘I mean’, and her deep thoughts are about as perceptive as her spelling is correct. Typos today are, for once, not my own work.
I am going to stay in bed this morning as I am quite upset as I saw a gentleman who quite upset me. I am not really sure it was the gentleman, as I saw him a quite a distants in the bar, but if it really is the gentleman it shows that when a girl has a lot of fate in her life it is sure to keep on happening.
I haven’t seen the film musical, with Marilyn Monroe, but I think I’m going to now. At the time of publication, it was hugely successful – the second best selling title of 1926 (although published in 1925), and Edith Wharton called it ‘The great American novel.’ I wonder how tongue-in-cheek she was being?
As the beauty of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is in the style, I’ll give you another excerpt – one which gets across quite how beguiling the young woman is:
So Mr. Jennings helped me quite a lot and I stayed in his office about a year when I stayed in his office about a year when I found out he was not the kind of gentleman that a young girl is safe with. I mean one evening when I went to pay a call on him at his apartment, I found a girl there who really was famous all over Little Rock for not being nice. So when I found out that girls like that paid calls on Mr. Jennings I had quite a bad case of hysterics and my mind was really a blank and when I came out of it, it seems that I had a revolver in my hand and it seems that the revolver had shot Mr. Jennings.
Because everyone at the trial except the District Attorney was really lovely to me and all the gentlemen in the jury all cried when my lawyer pointed at me and told them that they practically all had had either a mother or a sister. So the jury was only out three minutes and then they came back and acquitted me and they were all so lovely that I really had to kiss all of them and when I kissed the judge he had tears in his eyes and he took me right home to his sister.
So, I mean, I liked the novel a lot – I didn’t find it quite as uproariously funny as some people evidently do, and I think the joke would wear a little thin if it were stretched beyond the 150pp of this novel – but it was great fun while it lasted. And I do have the even shorter sequel, But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, in the other half of this edition, starting from the other side and meeting in the middle… I’ll report back in due course.