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PEYTON PLACE by Grace Metalious

PEYTON PLACE

By Grace Metalious

Pub Date: April 15th, 1999
ISBN: 1-55553-400-7

Here’s an unexpected publication: a new edition, complete with scholarly introduction, of the 1956 succäs de scandale that was in its time the single bestselling American novel, inspiring both a nighttime “television novel” (i.e., soap opera) and an only slightly less soapy (1958) feature film. Metalious (1924—64) was a competent writer with some flair whose punchy workmanlike prose efficiently captured her little inland New England hamlet’s earthy (if somewhat unbelievably sexually functional) populace. The characters—among others, Allison MacKenzie, round-heeled Betty Anderson, m.c.p. Rodney Harrington, and longsuffering Selena Cross—retain a perversely appealing, pulpy vitality. But scholar Ardis Cameron’s assertion that this likeably trashy novel offers “a valuable corrective to the myth of quiescent domesticity and class consensus,” besides gilding the lily indefensibly, confuses its author with Sinclair Lewis, not to mention Gustave Flaubert. Peyton Place is, on its own terms, both a perfectly decent popular novel and an honest one. But it never was an important one, and no amount of retroactive puffery can make it so.