I was drawn to this book about a teenage girl because it was published when I was a teenage boy & indeed the idiom brought back the 50s wonderfully: “ it’s a blast” “have a ball” “making out” “weenie” “that’s a drag” “out of it” – as well as some of the little details, like the new white luggage Courtney’s mother buys for their return to New York. I can’t recall wanting to read Chocolates for Breakfast then but I know I didn’t. I read Bonjour Tristesse, tho’ I had no idea who was this Bergson that Cécile was supposed to be reading for her exams & wasn’t. Of course I read The Catcher in the Rye because it was the book members of our clique were supposed to like. Tho’ belonging to the same period, The Bell Jar appeared only in 1963, after Plath was dead. Like Plath, Pamela Moore was a suicide, but unlike Plath & of course Salinger, she’s never been idolized by a cult. Yet now I found the principal character of Chocolates for Breakfast Courtney Farrell much more attractive & intriguing than either Esther Greenwood or Holden Caulfield, & frankly the whole family of Glasses too! In my current idiom, the chick rocks! In my teens, I wouldn’t have liked Courtney, but I’d have been very attracted to her but she certainly would’ve preferred older men. Which would have made her even more attractively out of reach.
Courtney’s jejune spirituality struck a chord too. I can still recall the effects of the same highly toxic species of pre-Vat-II Roman Catholicism that offers Courtney no consolation or spiritual sustenance but buckets of guilt instead. Unfortunately her school could not provide her with a formation either, tho’ I thought Miss Rosen could have been the model & guide every teen needs, providing a significant relationship with an adult who is not a parent (like Coach & Addy in Dare Me).We sense that Miss Rosen got a word to the wise from the headmistress that her relationship with Courtney might be getting too close for propriety. But it was unfortunate she dumped Courtney, because there is no one else Courtney can rely on for advice & support in dealing with relationships. As for her lovers, I found Barry likable but very weak, as you’d expect of a failed actor turned professional boy-toy. Anthony struck me as a purely literary creation out of Wilde & Waugh, but believable as a contrast to the odious collegian drunks who are very true to life indeed. Courtney’s BF Jane is the stereotypical party girl of the time, popular because she is “easy” & her fate is all too believable. Several of my friends had alcoholic fathers not unlike hers.
So Chocolates for Breakfast strikes me as a fairly true picture of what life was like among the upper classes in America in the 1950s, with its clouds of tobacco smoke, rivers of alcohol, & total spiritual malaise. Not @ all like the time of confidence & prosperity that it is too often portrayed as these days. Even if I’d had the chance to encounter her – she was only four years older than me – Pamela Moore probably would have represented a very high maintenance friendship indeed. But now I think I’d have liked to have had the chance to try.
Just maybe I’m ready to give Bonjour tristesse another go – en français this time.