Thursday, 17 May 2012

You see them every morning at a quarter to nine, rushing out of the maw of the subway tunnel, filing out of Grand Central Station, crossing Lexington and Park and Madison and Fifth avenues, the hundreds and hundreds of girls. Some of them look eager and some look resentful, and some of them look as if they haven't left their beds yet. Some of them have been up since six-thirty in the morning ... They carry the morning newspapers and overstuffed handbags. Some of them are wearing pink or chartreuse fuzzy overcoats and five-year-old ankle-strap shoes and have their hair up in pin curls underneath kerchiefs. Some of them are wearing chic black suits (maybe last year's but who can tell?) and kid gloves and are carrying their lunches in violet-sprigged Bonwit Teller paper bags. None of them has enough money. 

How could I resist an intro like that? I wouldn't have been able to resist the Pan paperback either, but my library copy is a not-nearly-so-racy Penguin, with its 'as seen on Mad Men' sticker.
I'm a bit late catching up with Mad Lit, seeing as how I've been hooked on the series since the very first episode (a sore subject now that it's no longer on BBC2). But this is the 1958 best seller that Don Draper was reading to find out what girls of Peggy's generation want. His wife Betty, meanwhile, was reading Mary McCarthy's The Group. Rona Jaffe's novel is hardly great literature - she was only 26 when it was published - but it grabbed me from the first page and made my toes curl at the thought of some of my own entanglements during my 20s. If only I'd been reading it with a stiff Martini instead of a mug of tea. And I thought I was going to have such a glamorous life ...

As for those Bonwit Teller paper bags, see how gorgeous they were. You simply couldn't use them to carry just any old ham sandwich.


Anonymous said...

I have missed a whole genre and had to look up Mad Men! Maybe I'll go back to Winifred Foley and Stella Gibbons?

mary said...

Toffeeapple, where have you been ... you missed Mad Men! I prescribe a boxed set straight away.
But have to confess that I had to google Winifred Foley - so maybe we just have different taste.