Touted as a very grown up novel by 18 year old American writer, Pamela Moore, and published during the repressive post war era, Courtney – the protagonist of the novel – exists in a world of shallow euphoria. Yet by the end of the book, you hope that the character (by now firmly imprinted on your psyche) grows up and figures out how to break through the cycle of alcohol addiction and bad company. The writer, Moore, produced a remarkably astute novel with suspiciously mature observations, and it’s easy to imagine that her mother, the writer Isabel Moore (or another interested adult) may have had a hand in constructing some of the more corruscating passages about coastal American society.
At the time of publication by Rinehart Press, issued for the princely sum of $3, and selling over a million copies, Pamela was hailed as an American Francoise Sagan, though ‘hailed’ is possibly not the correct word. Though popular her book was panned by critics, who compared her unfavourably with Sagan. Critics saw Sagan’s easy fluidity with sex as more skilful than Moore’s ‘attempt to shock.’ It was said of Moore that she deliberately set out to depict a decadent lifestyle of pre-marital sex, incessant boozing, cigarettes and partying et al. All very torrid at the time, though hardly blink worthy now.
Riding on the wave of publicity surrounding ‘Petyon Place’, another ‘scandalous’ novel by Grace Metalious, Moore’s short novel also enjoyed the notoriety of the classic myth buster, giving the inside scoop, not on a small New England town, but on the licentious activities of a privileged sorority girl from an upper middle class background.
By the time she is 17 years of age, the protagonist Courtney, has whisked her way through Hollywood, had an affair with a leading gigolo, slashed her wrists and boozed her way through NY with her cannibalistic Ivy League companions. Courtney’s best and only friend, Janet, is on a booze-fuelled spiral to disaster, which by the end of the book, you hope the narrator manages to escape.
The novel was reprinted by Harper Perennial last year, and given the fate of the author, along with the underlying themes of addiction, loss and depression, the book is more bitter than sweet.
Her mother, Isabel Moore went on to write the scandalous novel of the decade called ‘The Sex Cure’, Beacon, 1962, (now out of print) which shook another small New England town to its roots. Tragically, Pamela Moore died of a gunshot wound in 1964, which was presumed to be suicide, though no note was left. She was 27 years old.