Lorelei Lee is "just a simple girl from Little Rock, Arkansas" who manages to charm the world (or at least a significant portion of the wealthy male population in New York, London, Paris, Vienna, and "Buda Pest") in her search for diamonds, money, male companionship -- and, oh, incidentally, opportunities to improve her brains. With her girlfriend Dorothy Shaw, who is even dumber and more loud of mouth, Lorelei gets into and out of more scrapes and close calls (but holds onto bracelets and gifts and a diamond tiara) than you can shake a stick at. Written in diary form, the story closely imitates a gold-digger/flapper's voice and diction ("I sold a red baloon to Harry Lauder the famous Scotch gentleman who is the famous Scotch tenor for 20 pounds"). A monstrous bestseller in the years after its publication in 1925 (the inspiration for a hit Broadway show starring Carol Channing in 1949, and several movie versions -- most famously, the 1953 Howard Hawks film starring Marilyn Monroe), the book seems dated and labored today. The stories AROUND it are better: Loos originally drafted it as a short story to spoof her friend H.L. Mencken's fondness for less-than-brainy blondes, and he was so impressed that he encouraged her to expand and publish it. Georges Santayana called it the best book of philosophy by an American; Carl Van Vechten said it was "a work of art," and Merle Miller deemed it "THE Great American Novel." But it's thin gruel today. Call it a period piece.
This report prepared by David Loftus
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes may be the origin of the 'dumb blonde' stereotype; certainly the main character and narrator, Lorelei Lee, is the archetypal blonde. (Mottos: "diamonds are a girl's best friend" - yes, it comes from this book - and "smile, smile, smile.") A 'professional lady' as the subtitle on some of the editions indicates, Lorelei is a paid companion to wealthy, married men. When one of her men friends sends her on a tour of Europe, she makes out like a bandit and makes waves wherever she goes. This truly funny book is told in diary form, with Lorelei proving that you don't need to be able to spell to make it - as long as you have charm, cunning, and blonde hair. A classic.
This report prepared by Ivy