The novel as gossip

Dominick Dunne
Dominick Dunne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I’m on my second Dominick Dunne novel this year. He wrote a regular society/crime column in Vanity Fair up to his death in 2009 and his novels are thinly disguised tales of such goings on, in which the narrator is a society columnist and writer.

In March I read A Season in Purgatory which tells the (disguised and altered) tale of the murder of Martha Moxley by Michael Skakel, nephew of Ethel Skakel Kennedy. There are still attempts to overturn Skakel’s conviction for this murder that happened in 1975. (See links below.)

Currently I’m reading Dunne’s final novel, written just before his death in 2009, called Too Much Money which revolves around a coterie of aging socialites, one of which is in “reduced circumstances”, one trying to recover their caché after her husband’s  stint in prison (or “the facility” as she constantly corrects her friends and acquaintances), and the young gay men who are the “walkers” of these elderly wome.

Dunne’s books read like an extended article in a gossip magazine, but with big(ger) words. They’re kind of a kick and real page-turners. There are lots of tidbits about homes, furniture, clothing and accessories that I find fascinating. In Too Much Money, Gus Bailey [the Dominick Dunne character] talks about the notebooks he uses:

Gus wrote notes in his green leather notebook from Smythson of Bond Street in London; Stokes Bishop [his editor at the magazine] gave him one for Christmas every year.

So of course I checked out Smythson of Bond Street online, being the stationery nerd that I am. It was probably something like this:

Smythson Panama Notebook, 3.5″x 5.5″, £45

I don’t read gossip magazines unless I find myself in the hair salon or a pedicure chair without my current book, but I get my fill of the rich and famous this way. It’s not the most productive use of my reading time, but a good break from heavier, more literary reading.

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