Peyton Place, 50 Years Later

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Chicago . . . 50 years ago

“. . . the V of her crotch . . .;” that’s the phrase from the novel Peyton Place that thrilled the then pre-teenaged Whymrhymer as he sat in his room, scanning the paperback novel for other little tidbits of delicious ‘naughtiness’. Mother did not read great books, she was a down-to-earth, very practical and, as most Americans still do today (judging from the popularity of the well known scandal sheets such as the “Enquirer” and the “Globe” as well as the televised versions of those papers mother called “rags”) she loved a good scandal and needed frequent doses of ‘earthy’ realities. That’s how and why Peyton Place came into the house and how, one evening, Peyton Place “appeared” in Whymrhymer’s bedroom. That phrase, and that memory are still etched in his brain, 50 years later.

Manchester, New Hampshire . . . Today

Grace Metalious, the author of Peyton Place, is being fondly remembered in her home town of Manchester, New Hampshire this month on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the publication of the book; but back when the book was first published Ms. Metalious was considered anything but the town’s favorite author. Peyton Place, a novel of incest, underage sex and general debauchery was set in the fictional town of Livingstone, New Hampshire but it was universally understood to be a semi-factual story about Manchester and the town was scandalized — at least for a while. Times and attitudes change however, and according to a recent NewHampshire Humanities Council’s Newsletter:

” (A) project to explore the legacy of Grace Metalious & her infamous novel . . .will launch in April with “One City, One Book” discussions at the Manchester City Library. Mayor Frank Guinta will issue a proclamation urging citizens to read Peyton Place and see the film. Copies of the book will be available at the library and the film will be available to borrow on DVD.

Sadly, Grace Metalious, the author of the 20 million copy best seller, as well as of several other novels that did not fare so well, did not (or could not) enjoy her fame in the atmosphere of Manchester during Peyton Place’s heyday; the measure of fame that Ms. Metalious gained from the novel and the greater wealth and fame she earned from the movie and TV rights did nothing but help to destroy her — she died as an alcoholic at the age of 39.

Links:

The Boston Globe: Finally, a return to ‘Peyton Place’

Cabinet.com: On ‘Peyton Place,’ sex and violence

What bloggers are saying:

Steve Goddard’s History Wire: New Manchester, N.H. Generation Immerses Itself in “Peyton Place”

Wadleigh Reference Desk Blog: Peyton Place

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