A Camp Queen Delivers Again – “Once is Not Enough” by Jacqueline Susann
I picked up Jacqueline Susann’s “Once Is Not Enough,” thinking it was going to be great, but would likely pale in comparison to her mega-blockbuster (and one of my all-time favorite books) “Valley of the Dolls.”
I was partially right.
“Valley of the Dolls” is a better book – but “Once Is Not Enough” certainly raises the stakes. This book has lesbians, show business, movie stars, playboys, drugs, a twisted doctor, orgies, a heroine with a serious Daddy complex, and the mass rape of nuns.
Yes, you read that last part correctly. Mass rape of nuns.
How to even sum this book up – January Wayne is the appallingly gorgeous daughter of one-time Hollywood mogul Mike Wayne. Mike’s fallen on a string of bad luck, so he’s married an insanely rich societywoman named Dee. Dee has a handsome bachelor nephew named David who everyone thinks January would be great with – but January is obsessed with her father to the point where no other man holds her interest. David, however, is secretly involved with an aging screen star named Karla. Ready for a twist only the insane Ms. Susann could pull off? Dee is involved with Karla too! January begins working for a magazine, and winds up interviewing a famous writer named Tom Colt. Tom is her father’s age, and reminds January of Mike so much that she falls in love with him, but he’s married and holds her at arms length. Twists and turns and people intertwining lead to January turning to drugs. (Not “dolls” this time around, though the term does get used. Here, they’re “vitamin shots.”)
For those who know their “Valley of the Dolls,” I hope it will delight you to hear that January’s big climactic scene takes place while she’s strung out on drugs and rolling around on a beach. No joke.
This book is salacious and scandalous and all the things I expected it to be. It was also hella fun to read, so there.
“Valley of the Dolls” remains one of the best pure literary delights I know of, and “Once is Not Enough” comes close to it’s level of sheer camp. If forced to name one reason this book doesn’t beat my beloved VOTD, I’d say it’s the characters. January (clearly intended to be this books version of Anne from VOTD) is rather vapid and boring, and the interesting stuff seems to happen all around her without her ever becoming overly interesting herself. Though many of the secondary characters are interesting, there’s no Neely O’Hara, Jennifer North, Helen Lawson, or Miriam Polar to keep the drama ramped up.
Sometimes I like my novels full of backstage stories and melodrama, and (for my money, no one does it better than Jacqueline Susann.)
P.S. – “Once is Not Enough” was totally made into a movie. Which I now have to see. The end.