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James and Miriam Read Chocolates for Breakfast (Part I), Message in a Bottle from Mercer Island Books.
I don’t usually care too much about the autobiographical aspects of fiction, but the knowledge I had about her life (not just her death) made CFB feel almost like a novel within a novel for me. . . I particularly liked this observation about Los Angeles: “The palm trees, of course, were lit by floodlights because it is man’s business to improve upon actuality.” Note the 1950s-appropriate use of the masculine general there. It’s not too surprising that she could capture Courtney’s voice, but she also manages to get very successfully into the heads of several older characters. When Sondra’s bothered by Barry at the bar, the narrator says on her behalf, “The best way to treat a difficult child was to ignore him.” Sums up Sondra’s philosophy on child-rearing pretty well . . . But the most delicious aspect is probably the scandal of it all. You probably have to read something at least this old to get such a strong sense of taboo-busting. I don’t think Moore set out purely to shock, though. I think she was trying to talk in a serious way about the effects constraint has on young women, especially American women.
The Rumpus Reading Backwards from the End: Interview with Kevin Kanarek, by Elisa Albert
Moore’s book is charming, substantive, and smart, and I’m quite certain that if I’d first read it at sixteen, it would have been an epic favorite. The narcissistic parents, the fancy schools, the frustrating peers, the latent lesbianism, the grasping heterosexuality, the glamorous cities; it’s a wonderful novel about a fiercely funny, fucked-up, no-bullshit kind of girl.
Afterellen.com An influential lesbianish novel you couldn’t read until now by Trish Bendix:
Pamela Moore was writing truthfully about feelings that girls (and boys, for that matter) were having (and still have) as teenagers. Was Courtney a lesbian? She was likely bisexual . . . Pamela Moore was so young and unafraid of writing about taboo topics that were an undeniable part of her life, of many girls’ lives. She was speaking to a generation that benefitted from her frankness and her accessible style of writing . . . She was ahead of her time, and we’re just now able to catch up.
Chocolates for Breakfast is a coming-of-age novel of the most interesting variety. Courtney faces the adult world as little more than a child, but as she fakes her way to sophistication, confronting sexuality and alcohol and high society and depression and suicide, she starts to grow into the adult she is pretending to be. Though the writing can feel forced at times, Moore ultimately captures the essence of the teenage struggle to be recognized as an adult. Perhaps this is what makes the novel feel as relevant today as it did when published nearly 60 years ago, proving as shocking and important to today’s world as it did in the 1950s.
Shocking Fiction by Dangerous Women . . . The book’s frank treatment of a teen girl’s unsentimental education caused a wave of pearl-clutching on its publication in 1956, and it retains the power to disturb.
There are some places, especially in some of the turns of phrase, where Chocolates dates itself, but mostly you can read it and feel like it’s taking place today. And that, friends, is the mark of great writing. I read Chocolates for Breakfast very quickly — I pretty much couldn’t put it down. And now that I’ve finished it I kind of want to read it again even though I have a ton of other books that I need to read first. So take from that what you will. Bottom line: you should read it. Right now.
I found this book through Robert Nedelkoff’s examination of Moore’s career in The Baffler in 1997; it was only after I arrived in New York in 2001 that I managed to turn up a copy. Why this book struck me then, in retrospect, seems clear: the vision of youth that it presented was so markedly in contrast to the mawkishly sentimental view of childhood then coming into vogue in, for example, the early McSweeney’s aesthetic and the films of Wes Anderson after Rushmore. There was a rampant refusal to grow up, an idealization of childhood: J. D. Salinger and his cloyingly precocious protagonists bear no small amount of responsibility (as might, at a remove, the conservatism of Brideshead Revisited). To me at the time this felt wrong-headed; and it was refreshing to find a bildungsroman in which a sixteen-year-old so actively decides to be an adult. It’s not a book that could have been written in 2001, though it’s a book I needed to read then.
(And in a guest post on Writers No One Reads, Dan Visel goes on to discuss Pamela Moore’s later books and the French edition of Chocolates.)
The mid-century United States that Pamela Moore depicts in her 1956 novel, particularly the first half, feels almost dystopian in its bleakness: full of privileged but desperately lonely, disaffected, alcoholic, and cynical characters who all live in their own private worlds. It made me feel similar to when I read The Catcher in the Rye or The Great Gatsby .
There are books that have stayed with me for years, causing a shift in my thinking, making me see things a little differently, and taking me into a world that I want to leave, but I’m somehow drawn to stay and linger for a while. This book is reminiscent of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, and Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks.
Parce qu’une certaine idée de la profondeur, légère, délicieusement légère.
Et puis les désirs et la mélancolie des jeunes filles.
This beautifull novel (Chocolate For Breakfast ) is no more printed in Italy from ’80. It’s a really pity..