It was seventh grade and I can see the dimpled, clownish face of the boy who brought the book, but I can’t recall his name. He read the section where Johnny Fontaine’s actress wife came home from a night of adultery and Johnny couldn’t even bring himself to hit her in the face. I think the line that moved us to awed silence was “Johnny never fucked me.” I was already quite the dirty-book specialist, but this was a DIRTY BOOK. I bided my time, knowing it would come into my hands eventually.
Strangely, the place where I finally got a little quality time with Mario Puzo’s go-for-broke bestseller (Puzo had been a pretty serious literary writer pre-Godfather) was at my maternal grandparents’ home over Christmas break. I have no idea how the book came to be in my Grandmother Mabry’s house. (Okay, who am I kidding? We called her ‘Big Mama’ as noted elsewhere on this blog.) I cannot imagine my grandmother reading it, or even my grandfather. And, of course, except for the bits of sex that everyone remembers, it’s actually not that dirty a book. Grace Metallious was far dirtier. Although, in some of its passages about women, THE GODFATHER could not be more profoundly stupid.
Okay, what’s the harm? None, really. Or maybe some. Perhaps THE GODFATHER is ripe for a retelling, a la THE WIND DONE GONE, from sister Connie’s POV. And wouldn’t it be refreshing if Lucy was finally allowed to say: “My vagina’s not too big — your penis is just too small!”
In short — hah! — Mario Puzo did more for the myth of the vaginal orgasm than anyone since Freud. There are myriad reasons to admire Francis Ford Coppola, but the loss of that particular subplot from the movie version is among them.
Where were you when you read it? And where were you when you read FEAR OF FLYING, a book that’s probably better than its current rep would have it — smart, funny, punny? Interestingly, Erica Jong was called a “mammoth pudenda” for writing that book, but no one ever called Puzo a “little prick.” Doesn’t seem fair.
Me, I read “Fear of Flying” chapter by chapter, standing up in the Waldenbooks at Columbia Mall. I read Rumer Godden’s “Greengage Summer” the same way, Lord knows why. Thirty years later, Rumer Godden is known, if she’s known at all, for inspiring the name of Demi Moore’s and Bruce Willis’s daughter.