• Great Beginnings: The Dud Avocado

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Great Beginnings     Comments 9 comments

    The Dud Avocado, Elaine DundyLast week’s Great Beginnings was a treat. We discussed the opening lines of James Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime, and the conversation moved from enjoyment of the passage in question to the strictures of MFA writing to our shared love of reading. This week I have a passage that’s startlingly similar to the Salter, from a book I’m just beginning, Elaine Dundy’s The Dud Avocado. (Speaking of “nuggets of gratitude”–thank you, NYRB Classics.)

    And it goes like this:

    It was a hot, peaceful, optimistic sort of day in September. It was around eleven in the morning, I remember, and I was drifting down the boulevard St. Michel, thoughts rising in my head like little puffs of smoke, when suddenly a voice bellowed into my ear: “Sally Jay Gorce! What the hell? Well, for Christ’s sake, can this really be our own little Sally Jay Gorce?” I felt a hand ruffling my hair and I swung around, furious at being so rudely awakened.

    A fine opening, that.

    What do you good folks think of this Dud Avocado opening? What works here, and what doesn’t? What do we learn about the narrator? And if you’re feeling really adventurous, how about a compare/contrast with last week’s Salter passage?


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    h. l. nelson

    How weird! I can only assume the author has read Salter’s. I’ll take a look at them both today and respond.

    David Duhr

    If anything, it’s the opposite. This book came out ~10 years before Salter’s. Perhaps Salter read this one and thought, “I can write a better opening set in Paris in September, and mine’ll be all luminous and whatnot.”

    h. l. nelson

    Haha! I thought this one was newer, for some reason. How very interesting.

    h. l. nelson

    You should post the Salter passage so those of us who are lazy (me) can easily compare the two. :)

    David Duhr

    I should have done. Salter: September. It seems these luminous days will never end. The city, which was almost empty during August, now is filling up again. It is being replenished. The restaurants are all reopening, the shops. People are coming back from the country, the sea, from trips on roads all jammed with cars. The station is very crowded. There are children, dogs, families with old pieces of luggage bound by straps. I make my way among them. It’s like being in a tunnel. Finally I emerge onto the brilliance of the quai, beneath a roof of glass panels… Read more »

    h. l. nelson

    Yeah, you should have! Hehe, thanks. Response forthcoming…

    h. l. nelson

    In this first section, I think Salter’s language is more generally lovely, and there’s more description about his character’s surroundings than there is in Dundy’s. Also, his character isn’t seemingly asleep. The “loudness” of the person interrupting Dundy’s narrator kinda ruins it for me.

    h. l. nelson

    Is this blog post a dud avocado?

    Justine Tal Goldberg

    It’s not! It’s ripe, juicy, and flavorful.

    I have to say, I’m kind of digging the interruption of the dream, especially because that voice–the interrupter’s–is so clear and controlled. We have no idea yet who this person is but I can hear his/her voice as if he/she’s (I’m guessing it’s a he) speaking in my ear. It interrupts *our* dream, too. Pretty impressive considering we’ve only had two sentences to align our own experience with the narrator’s.

    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x