“‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ resonates today, as it did nearly a century ago.”
-Elizabeth Taylor, literary editor, The Chicago Tribune
“First published by Liveright in 1925–and now brought back into print by the same house–the novel will find a new audience to delight, amaze and amuse.”
-Valerie Ryan, Shelf Awareness
“I first saw the movie Gentleman Prefer Blondes when I was about thirteen. It was the seventies, my parents had recently divorced, and I had moved with my mother and three sisters from suburbia to live with my new stepfather and his five kids on a pseudo-commune in rural New Jersey. The governing philosophy of “The Farm,” as we called it, was “challenging authority.” Hierarchy, patriarchy, capitalism, government, police, school, anything remotely conventional was disputed, derided, and upended. One sister had a poster of Gloria Steinem in her room; another, Angela Davis; and a stepbrother, a huge red flag with Che Guevara’s picture on it. I covered an entire wall of my room in images of Marilyn Monroe.
I had become obsessed with Marilyn, not only as a sublime comedienne but also as an icon of social, political, and sexual subversion. I watched her films incessantly, revelling in what I perceived to be their subliminal insurgent message. In most of her roles, but especially as Lorelei Lee, Marilyn seemed to have ascertained that the world was one big bastion of hypocrisy, especially when it came to women, so she put a new spin on an old adage: if you can’t beat ‘em, make ‘em pay, pay, pay. She conformed exquisitely to patriarchal expectations of her, honed her seductive powers and female wiles, cultivated her beauty and charm, prettified her razor-sharp wit, and, while never compromising her Leibnizian belief that beneath all the crap and rot humanity could shovel up, this was, after all, the best of all possible worlds, she hung everybody out to dry.
I can only imagine how I might have been further inspired if, at the time, I had read Anita Loos’s novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes first published in 1925 at the height of the Jazz Age. The original Lorelei Lee goes leagues beyond Howard Hawks’s rendition–and would have made a delightful compatriot at The Farm. In her inimitable first-person narrative in diary form, Lorelei skewers every possible power structure: politics, religion, class, society, culture, consumerism, psychoanalysis, Hollywood, even language itself. Sadly, as predictably happens with works authored by women, Loos’s once massively best-selling book was dismissed and, by the 1970s forgotten. And though I appreciated Holden Caulfield’s rants against phoniness, he didn’t have a clue what a girl was up against….”
To read the rest of my introduction and above all the glorious Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
but it now! Give it to a friend, a daughter, a lover. It’s truly great literature.