Once is Not Enough

In Novel on November 23, 2004 at 2:50 am

onceisnotenough-thumb.jpgOnce is Not Enough (1973)
by Jacqueline Susann

I read Valley of the Dolls few months ago, it was the famous (infamous?) best-selling trash classic from 60s. It sure was a hell of an enjoyable read. 😀 Once is Not Enough was last of her “trash trilogy,” finished shortly before her death. It followed the same formula as Valley: rich and famous glamorous lifestyle, entertainment industry, sensationalism, drugs, sex, lesbian affair, gang rape, orgy, retards, a high to low fall and much more… Once started out just as great as Valley but then fell short with the pointlessly depressing ending, or as Chinese saying goes: “spray dog blood.” Maybe it’s due to the fact that Jacqueline Susann was at her final stage of cancer when she had to race against time to finish the book. It was just an unsatisfying but somewhat fitting strange surreal supernatural ending that marked her final exit.

Story: Basically a semi mental-incest story between a girl and her father. A rich girl adored her famous and handsome movie producer father. But when she reached 18 and about to live her life, she got into a motocycle accident that left her paralyzed. Under three years of expensive and isolated treatment, she recovered only to discover the world has changed. Her father became a “has-been” who couldn’t catch up with the time. He went bankrupt after many flops and failed investment. As his final gamble he striked gold by marrying a millionaire woman. He did it only to secure a rich and comfortable future life for his beloved daughter. But the ungrateful daughter felt abandoned because she was no longer the most important female in his life. The newly wed couple tried to fix the girl up in a good “match” that they approved of. The good “match” is the millionaire woman’s young cousin who only half-assedly went along because of the inheritance money. He was actually having a secret affair with a 54-year old once-famous actress who had a dark secret past. But then the millionaire woman has many secrets of her own as well. Clueless to all these secrets agendas, our young heroine struggled to make it on her own in this difficult world blah blah…

Like Valley‘s Anne, the heroine is also an innocent virgin, except this one would fall harder because she started out more sheltered and naive. But the real stars are the supporting characters: the father, the millionaire wife, and the actress. Later there’s a character (the girl’s love interest) who’s a hard-boiled writer who won Pulitzer prize, he was said to be based on Norman Mailer, the misogynous, hard-drinking, hardass Pulitzer prize winner (btw read on LA Time few weeks ago saying this famously anti-sitcom/TV drama writer will guest star on ‘Gilmore Girls’, WTF!!?).

The story in Valley spanned across 20 years while Once only spanned across like…4 years? That’s why it wasn’t as eventful and interesting. But it’s still as emotional (in a spray-dog-blood way) and many shocking ugly revelations.

I don’t care for ‘spray-dog-blood’ sensational story really. I’d say that ultimately what interested me most is how it worked as a zeitgeist. Like an expensive status LV bag cost OH-MY-GOD $130!??? ^^;;; The chief editor of a top women’s magazine in New York make like what…$20,000 a year!? And the constant commentary on how the renegade/avant-garde/hippie 60s overthrown the 50s and the preceeding old glamour eras. The father just couldn’t comprehend the new generation where movies are experimental and artsy. He could only understand movies where good guys always win and bad guys always lose. 60s is the revolution generation where youth culture has rebelled and over taken the adult-establishment world. It is the era when civil right and feminism blossom. Pure vocal-centric music like Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fritzgerald were replaced by a world-shaping music revolution (rock, folk, psychedelic, idols, pop…basically all kinds of music genre were born this era). Actors/actresses are no longer needed to be larger-than-life “beautiful”, the unique personality looking “uglies” are IN. Movies weren’t like high-fashion anymore; they’re gritty and dirty. It’s fun to read about these remarks from Jacquelne Susann as if she’s in sad denial on how the old-glamour time she was comfortable with was gone. She also make amusing yet depressing observations on the youth culture. Therefore aside from the soap-drama fixed, it satisfied as a 60s (and beyond) zeitgeist as well.

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