The Dud Avocado is a sustaining delight, although some plot twists almost threw me off the imaginative train. Now, after the novel’s last page, they seem fitting, which I suppose is the mark of a good twist: you don’t like it or you find it implausible, but it comes to feel so organic that conceiving of the novel without the twist becomes impossible. Then again, even were the surprises unacceptable, I would still like The Dud Avocado for its language and, at times, innocent snark; one of my favorite lines I will repeat in conversation, modified to suit the circumstances: “We treat each other like a couple of minor United Nations officials, Bax and I. Very protocol, very wary.” With lines like that, what’s a little oddity in the plot?
There were a few other signs of stretching: one character underwent an almost spontaneously change, or so I thought, though in retrospect the transition was foreshadowed if I had cared enough to see—there’s a little bit of the mystery genre in every novel—and now I can see its importance for Sally’s development: she learned she can’t fully trust others, though this sets up an ending that can be interpreted several ways I will not reveal here, as it contributes to an ending as fitting and sparkling as the rest of the novel. Throughout it, you get some philosophy bound with humor—”I gave up wondering if anyone was ever going to understand me at all. If I was ever going to understand myself even.”—and bound with seeing Sally struggle, but not too hard, and not so much that you think she’s going to find herself six feet under. It would be no easier imagining disaster in Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Holly Golightly is Sally’s most obvious literary kin, although I suspect The Dud Avocado is the better book (I say “suspect” because it’s been too long since I read Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but remember it being considerably shallower than The Dud Avocado).
For one thing, Sally is more interesting and self-aware than most heroes, even as she tries at times to be cynical and tough and succeeds no better than she would trying to be the Queen of England. But she is not silly in a disreputable or trivial fashion. The book’s tone might make some readers think it trivial, but The Dud Avocado has much to say about how to grow up (with a sense that the world won’t end and you should feel free to explore) and how to love (with abandon, but not so much as to lost perspective or drown yourself in someone else). Life, Sally realizes, is hard, but not so hard that you should become hard in response, lest you lose what makes it worthwhile, and Sally says, “now the whole thing seemed really more comic than tragic. I found I was almost enjoying myself.”
I feel the same way about reading and many things besides.