Billy asked for something to read on the trip to Tralfamadore. His captors had five million Earthling books on microfilm, but no way to project them in Billy's cabin. They had only one actual book in English which would be placed in a Tralfamadorian museum. It was Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Susann.
Billy read it, thought it was pretty good in spots. The people in it certainly had their ups and downs, ups and downs. But Billy didn't want to read about the same ups and downs over and over again. He asked if there wasn't, please, some other reading matter around.
"Only Tralfamadorian novels, which I'm afraid you couldn't begin to understand," said the speaker on the wall.
"Let me look at one anyway."
So they sent him in several. They were little things. A dozen of them might have had the bulk of Valley of the Dolls--with all its ups and downs, ups and downs.
Billy Pilgrim craves stories on the long flight from Earth to Tralfamadore. Unfortunately, all his hosts have is a copy of Valley of the Dolls, a highly popular but completely trashy novel by Jacqueline Susann that was published in 1966. Since Dolls was first released, it has sold 31 million copies. To put that into perspective, the first Harry Potter novel sold a relatively small 5 million copies in hardcover and 6.6 million in paperback during the first year of its release.
It's not surprising that Valley of the Dolls is going in the Earth exhibit in a Tralfamadorian museum. Everyone was reading Susann's book when Slaughterhouse first came out. Today, the Tralfamdorians might choose a copy of Fifty Shades of Gray for their museum's human collection. It's all about popularity. Certainly, J. K. Rowling and Stephen King might make the cut as well, simply by the sheer numbers of books they've sold.
It is the day after. I finished evaluating my last stack of papers at 10:40 p.m., entered my final grades at 11:35 p.m., took some ibuprofen, and went to bed. I am currently in the state of end-of-semester hangover. My eyes are burning, and I am a little achy with sleep deprivation. I plan to completely relax this evening. Tomorrow, I dive into planning my summer class, which begins in two weeks. Gulp.
Tonight, however, I take a break. I have a copy of Ann Patchett's Commonwealth that I have been saving for this occasion. It's not Valley of the Dolls, but it has gotten great reviews. If I can stay awake, I plan on reading a few chapters before I pass out from exhaustion. I do have a bottle of white wine in the fridge. I may have a glass. Or two.
Saint Marty is thankful for a night without a red pen in his hand.