The Girl With the Sequined Chip On Her Shoulder by Dina Gachman in the L.A. Review of Books (September 23, 2013)
In recent years, much has been made about the gender bias in the publishing world. Female writers are reviewed less frequently, taken less seriously, and are often plagued by book covers sporting pastel hues, cupcakes, and stilettos. . . Chocolates for Breakfast isn’t Proust, but in my mind that’s a good thing. Give me story and characters and sex scandals in the Garden of Allah over stream-of-consciousness musings any day. One isn’t better than the other. It’s really a matter of taste. This novel isn’t just “chick lit”, nor is it fluff. It’s a deeply felt story, but the eighteen-year old Moore was intelligent enough to tell her tale with a light touch.
Bittersweet Rediscovery by Hope Reese in the Chicago Tribune (July 5, 2013)
In « Chocolates for Breakfast, » Moore addresses issues rarely acknowledged in the 1950s. . . at a time when divorce was deeply stigmatized, Courtney lives alone with her mother, who takes pride in her career. Sondra, first presented as a washed-up actress, is developed as a full and multi-dimensional character. « Symbols of her acting success, like the maid, Marie, and the clothes she buys, make her feel she’s a success as a person, almost, » Courtney remarks, « the way a devoted husband would reassure another woman. »
But perhaps Moore’s greatest accomplishment is her sharp critique of society’s mores. . . The book’s language is sometimes marked by age, but its themes of sex, love, identity and friendship withstand time. Moore may no longer be with us, but her first novel is, rightfully, back on the shelves.
I Love this Book writes Whitney Matheson in USA TODAY (June 26, 2013)
Once I started reading it, I didn’t want to stop, and it’s certainly one of the best books I’ve read all year… Upon its publication, Moore was compared to J.D. Salinger. (Catcher in the Rye was published just a few years earlier, in 1951.) Chocolates for Breakfast also feels like a predecessor to essential young-adult reads like The Bell Jar and even 1999′s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. While reading it, I felt a little upset that I didn’t have access to this book during my own teen years, when I would’ve needed it most.
Other roundups in which the reissue of Chocolates is recommended for summer reading, compared to Catcher in the Rye, or both:
Anna Breslaw writes about the book in Jezebel: (May 25, 2013)
- A new (well, not new, but new to most of us) addition to the smart, edgy coming-of-age female lexicon.
- For a book that’s a cross between Gossip Girl and The Bell Jar… the feminist implications pack a hell of a punch. But it’s fun too!
- Especially perfect for any too-cool Class of 2013 high school girl in your life, or someone who just is one at heart. »
- And the reissued cover’s not even that bad! (Considering Jezebel’s scathing round-up of chick-lit makeovers of vintage book covers, that’s quite a compliment.)
Emma Straub’s interview with Kevin Kanarek about Chocolates ran in the June issue of Dossier Journal. It’s an exquisitely designed and printed magazine, which this scanned pdf can only partly convey.
The Village Voice, in its announcement of the launch, notes the resonance between Lena Dunham’s work and Moore’s:
In a lot of ways, Courtney Farrell is on par with Lena Dunham’s Hannah. She’s learning how to live in New York City, indulging in a mindfully crafted martini or two, and engaging in affairs with older men. On top of that she has the hots for her—also older—female teacher at boarding school. Consider that Farrell, the main character of Pamela Moore’s Chocolates for Breakfast, is 15 years old, and that she first appeared in 1956, and suddenly the sexcapades of any given 24-year-old on Girls seem less shocking than culturally overdue.
Lena Dunham, writer/director of the film Tiny Furniture and the HBO series Girls, lists Chocolates on her top 3 summer reads in Vogue, and tweets an instagram shot of the book cover held by her costar Jemima Kirke.
Courtney Love reveals that she was named after the main character Courtney Farrell, and gives her own perspective on the book:
My mother named me for a book Chocolates for Breakfast, that book’s crazy… it’s about a fading, alcoholic actress who lives in the Garden of Allah and the Chateau Marmont, in room 34, which is where I was when I bought it off e-bay… her and her mother both have sex by meeting [men] at Schwab’s (which is my local drugstore, just FYI)… Frances and I were reading it, like « Who’s who? What’s what? »
(Love also mentions the origin of her name in a 2002 Entertainment Weekly interview)
Emma Straub, author of Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, describes how Chocolates helped her imagine what Hollywood might have been like to a young person in the 50′s:
It’s sexy and sad, it’s like The Bell Jar in California and on the Upper East Side. And that sort of helped me think more about youth in the past—which is a hard thing for me to wrap my mind around also. You always just think about things happening in black and white, and I don’t know, teenagers don’t really factor in to that. Like if you think about teenagers in black and white, if you think about Leave It To Beaver or something, where everything is peachy keen when obviously that’s not the case. So that was a really juicy one that I think everyone should read when it comes out again.
Rachel Shukert, author of Starstruck and Everything is Going to be Great, included Chocolates in her entry for The Best American Erotic Poems (2008):
Chocolates for Breakfast by Pamela Moore is not an erotic work per se; it’s a product of an all-too-brief vogue for novels about sexually precocious poor little rich girls, written by sexually precocious poor little rich girls (see Sagan, Francoise). It is, in fact, sort of an American Bonjour Tristesse, this time set against the cocktail-party swirl of 1950s Manhattan and Hollywood, complete with alcoholic writers, suicidal debutantes, and fresh-faced Yale boys with One Thing On Their Minds. The sexual conquests of the fifteen-year-old protagonist include a closeted B-movie actor drowning in a sea of gin and torment; the louche, Byronic scion of minor European aristocracy; and a witty, cold-blooded WASP looking down his nose at the whole sad affair — coincidentally, precisely the types of men who have figured into every one of my meaningful sexual fantasies. As a result, the demurely written love scenes, even filled with torpid references to the sea and the sun, are some of the hottest things I have ever read.
The Best American Erotic Poems: from 1800 to the present, Simon & Schuster, 2008
Improve Your Taste With… Rachel Shukert on Nerve.com (2010)
It’s about this fifteen-year-old girl, Courtney Farrell, and how she navigates her way through boarding school, Hollywood, and the Manhattan socialite scene. From the way she’s described, it’s pretty clear that Courtney is seriously manic-depressive, before there was really a way to describe that in the mainstream discourse. The tone is sort of like if Sylvia Plath and Jacqueline Susann wrote a book together, and I don’t think I have to tell you how incredibly awesome that would be.
Great Girl Trash on Salon.com by Janet Fitch (2000)
(author of White Oleander and Paint It Black)
Chocolates for Breakfast (1956) by Pamela Moore
Fifteen-year-old Courtney Farrell has been raised by her actress mother to make a good martini and understand how to get around in the adult world of Hollywood’s famed Garden of Allah, where her mother lives. She returns from boarding school in the East — a touchstone of the best girl trash — takes her first lover (a homosexual actor!), drinks a lot and becomes very jaded and sophisticated. A book to treasure forever.