The Girl From Peyton Place

Excuse me, but I have to crow about a tag sale find. I picked up a copy of The Girl from Peyton Place by George Metalious, with somebody or other. Normally you have to view with some skepticism what an ex-husband says, but I believe this book is completely on the level.

He says he was riding his bike one day and he had an idea for Grace, an aspiring author who had had one book rejected — to really rip the lid off and talk all about a woman’s view of sex from high school on. If you credit his account, as I do, she took the idea and ran with it.

If you question his account, then she got the idea from somewhere else or came up with it herself, but her dedication reads: “To George, for all the reasons he knows.”

In any case, she ran with it. Peyton Place didn’t just sell a lot of copies. It sold more copies than anyone thought you could possibly sell. I collect Grace Metalious, and most of the copies I have are from the 19th or 23d printing.

She sat down at her kitchen table, like Harriet Beecher Stowe in her day, and she transformed the national consciousness. She lifted the veil on child sexual abuse. A lot of people wax poetic about the good old days, meaning, “the days when we didn’t hear about this kind of thing.”

The rape of Selena Cross and the vengeance she metes out with a fireplace poker on her stepfather, the loathesome Lucas Cross, should be considered a breakthrough in American literature , and in the literature of the world, a world in denial.

And, it turns out, in Grace’s original manuscript, Lucas is not her stepfather, but her natural father. The publishers asked Grace to change it and she said, “Sure.”

America wasn’t ready for the full truth, back then. Remember, this was a time when you couldn’t say “pregnant” on television.

But I believe Peyton Place opened the door for many, many thousands of victims of sexual abuse that the public didn’t want to know about. And without question it gave women all over the world a validation of their experience and a call to come forward with their own stories.

That’s why I love Grace Metalious. Now, was she a nice person? Well actually she was a pretty serious drunk, like Faulkner, so that question kind of becomes moot. I guess we’ll never know. But did George love her and did she love George, from the time when they were little kids? All the evidence points to yes, yes, yes.

I’m just saying, if you see a copy of this book, snatch it up. It tells the tale of a book that literally transformed the consciousness of the US of A.