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Unbuttoning America: A Biography of Peyton Place

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Limited time offer: Through special arrangement with University Press of New England, we are pleased to offer a specially priced two-book set of Unbuttoning America and Peyton Place for just $29.95 paperback. Published in 1956, Peyton Place became a bestseller and a literary phenomenon. A lurid and gripping story of murder, incest, female desire, and social injustice, it wa Limited time offer: Through special arrangement with University Press of New England, we are pleased to offer a specially priced two-book set of Unbuttoning America and Peyton Place for just $29.95 paperback. Published in 1956, Peyton Place became a bestseller and a literary phenomenon. A lurid and gripping story of murder, incest, female desire, and social injustice, it was consumed as avidly by readers as it was condemned by critics and the clergy. Its author, Grace Metalious, a housewife who grew up in poverty in a New Hampshire mill town and had aspired to be a writer from childhood, loosely based the novel's setting, characters, and incidents on real-life places, people, and events. The novel sold more than 30 million copies in hardcover and paperback, and it was adapted into a hit Hollywood film in 1957 and a popular television series that aired from 1964 to 1969. More than half a century later, the term "Peyton Place" is still in circulation as a code for a community harboring sordid secrets. In Unbuttoning America, Ardis Cameron mines extensive interviews, fan letters, and archival materials including contemporary cartoons and cover images from film posters and foreign editions to tell how the story of a patricide in a small New England village circulated over time and became a cultural phenomenon. She argues that Peyton Place, with its frank discussions of poverty, sexuality, class and ethnic discrimination, and small-town hypocrisy, was more than a tawdry potboiler. Metalious s depiction of how her three central female characters come to terms with their identity as women and sexual beings anticipated second-wave feminism. More broadly, Cameron asserts, the novel was also part of a larger postwar struggle over belonging and recognition. Fictionalizing contemporary realities, Metalious pushed to the surface the hidden talk and secret rebellions of a generation no longer willing to ignore the disparities and domestic constraints of Cold War America."


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Limited time offer: Through special arrangement with University Press of New England, we are pleased to offer a specially priced two-book set of Unbuttoning America and Peyton Place for just $29.95 paperback. Published in 1956, Peyton Place became a bestseller and a literary phenomenon. A lurid and gripping story of murder, incest, female desire, and social injustice, it wa Limited time offer: Through special arrangement with University Press of New England, we are pleased to offer a specially priced two-book set of Unbuttoning America and Peyton Place for just $29.95 paperback. Published in 1956, Peyton Place became a bestseller and a literary phenomenon. A lurid and gripping story of murder, incest, female desire, and social injustice, it was consumed as avidly by readers as it was condemned by critics and the clergy. Its author, Grace Metalious, a housewife who grew up in poverty in a New Hampshire mill town and had aspired to be a writer from childhood, loosely based the novel's setting, characters, and incidents on real-life places, people, and events. The novel sold more than 30 million copies in hardcover and paperback, and it was adapted into a hit Hollywood film in 1957 and a popular television series that aired from 1964 to 1969. More than half a century later, the term "Peyton Place" is still in circulation as a code for a community harboring sordid secrets. In Unbuttoning America, Ardis Cameron mines extensive interviews, fan letters, and archival materials including contemporary cartoons and cover images from film posters and foreign editions to tell how the story of a patricide in a small New England village circulated over time and became a cultural phenomenon. She argues that Peyton Place, with its frank discussions of poverty, sexuality, class and ethnic discrimination, and small-town hypocrisy, was more than a tawdry potboiler. Metalious s depiction of how her three central female characters come to terms with their identity as women and sexual beings anticipated second-wave feminism. More broadly, Cameron asserts, the novel was also part of a larger postwar struggle over belonging and recognition. Fictionalizing contemporary realities, Metalious pushed to the surface the hidden talk and secret rebellions of a generation no longer willing to ignore the disparities and domestic constraints of Cold War America."

30 review for Unbuttoning America: A Biography of Peyton Place

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    "Peyton Place spilled the beans"..... Sexual satisfaction for women had gained new respect --- part of the postwar legacy. In reading "A biography of Peyton Place", we learn of a historian named Kenneth Davis who first explored the connection between Alfred Kinesey's 1953 report "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female" and the connection and the novel Peyton Place. What shocked Americans about Kinesey, was not just the explicit nature of his findings; rather it was the lack of remorse expressed by "Peyton Place spilled the beans"..... Sexual satisfaction for women had gained new respect --- part of the postwar legacy. In reading "A biography of Peyton Place", we learn of a historian named Kenneth Davis who first explored the connection between Alfred Kinesey's 1953 report "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female" and the connection and the novel Peyton Place. What shocked Americans about Kinesey, was not just the explicit nature of his findings; rather it was the lack of remorse expressed by unmarried mothers, mothers, adulterous wives, and active single women. "The chaste conceded only that they had lacked opportunity". Woman may have liked sex but official talk of pleasure began around the bed. Women and girls were not only enjoying sex -but enjoying it often --on their own terms. The news came as a major challenge to polite notion that 'good girls' don't. They represented this unspoken reality. "Dirt" took readers down below where the unfiltered truth was hidden. Desire and difference hovered over every page -sexual desire to be sure, but also the kinds of yearning and dislocation not easily translated into political understandings. What interested me in reading this 'Biography' of Peyton Place -- was the timing of 'today'. Right now, the movie "Fifty Shades of Gray" is the number #1 movie box office hit in America. The books were Best Sellers. As a married female who remembers watching the TV show -a few times a week - as a young unmarried women --with my own mother --I still can remember 'the-talk-around-town'. That same 'talk-around-town' was buzzin when "The Fifty Shades of Gray" books were at its peak, and the buzzin is starting in again with the movie. What is going on? What is really "the unspoken reality"? Is it going to take another 50 years to read the new UP-dated "Unbuttoning American"? Do we need the academics to explore this topic for us? I saw many parallels in this biography --many of the same reactions --(shocking and liberating) with the journey American's took with 'sex talk' around Peyton Place. With Both Peyton Place and "Fifty Shades", some people would hide reading their books in public. Others were speaking out about how wrong it is to 'abuse women' and 'control' woman...(destroying all the work feminist have done). Yet, the biggest news of all is hearing bright educated self efficient women whispering "they want to be controlled" 'in the bedroom. (Many want want to explore more 'Gray' areas). Sex Talk in America is happening again. Mainstream American wants to open up the doors again.....and get inside the 'desire' of what women want in the bedroom! This was an excellent-interesting book. Perfect time to read it ---for those who are still curious about the 'hype' of "Fifty Shades of Gray"....and for those who were fans of Peyton Place. Remember the old saying, "History repeats itself"? It kinda is.....

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kaethe Douglas

    Is there anything more passé than a steamy novel after sixty years? We read Valley of the Dolls and Flowers in the Attic back in the day, and it's really almost impossible to recall them without groaning a little. Or blushing. Or rolling your eyes. Possibly all of the above *and* a disclaimer about untutored youth. Peyton Place predates me, but it made enough of a ripple in the culture to get me to go back and give it a look. Just as I am someday going to do with Forever Amber. I thought it was Is there anything more passé than a steamy novel after sixty years? We read Valley of the Dolls and Flowers in the Attic back in the day, and it's really almost impossible to recall them without groaning a little. Or blushing. Or rolling your eyes. Possibly all of the above *and* a disclaimer about untutored youth. Peyton Place predates me, but it made enough of a ripple in the culture to get me to go back and give it a look. Just as I am someday going to do with Forever Amber. I thought it was okay, but no big deal. Then one day, I'm walking by the new books and I see this fabulously saucy cover (seriously, academic presses are not known for their fabulous covers), and I take a look, and by the time I've finished checking out the book jacket I am checking the book out of the library. This is a social history of a publishing phenomenon about which I previously knew nothing. And it is riveting. How the publisher got it, how Metalious wrote it, the true murder story that forms the plot, excerpts from the author's fan mail, and a bit about her life after she found fame and fortune. It is an amazing story, both entertaining and insightful. I feel like Cameron has explained a time and a culture in a way I've never understood before, and I am grateful for her tutelage (hers must be the most popular classes on campus). Great book, great cover, weird time in American history. I wish all academic writing were this fun to read. Library copy

  3. 4 out of 5

    Karla

    Not really a biography of Grace Metalious or a pure biography of Peyton Place, but more the phenomenon of the novel and how it tapped into the nation's psyche. It was pretty readable, despite occasional moments of Scrabble Triple Word Score (Academia Edition) such as: Enabled by an expanded and democratized "Republic of Letters," the female author signaled as well its enervated state and lack of "authenticity." Deeply gendered, the "transcendent self" of authorship emerged in the modernist imagina Not really a biography of Grace Metalious or a pure biography of Peyton Place, but more the phenomenon of the novel and how it tapped into the nation's psyche. It was pretty readable, despite occasional moments of Scrabble Triple Word Score (Academia Edition) such as: Enabled by an expanded and democratized "Republic of Letters," the female author signaled as well its enervated state and lack of "authenticity." Deeply gendered, the "transcendent self" of authorship emerged in the modernist imaginary as a function of the interiority of masculine endeavor, epitomized by the boy geniuses whose "thin, slim volumes" of poems, experimental novels, and learned essays took on a marked seriousness in an otherwise frivolous and feminized marketplace. Zzzzz..... Sorry, passed out there alongside Grace on the ratty old sofa for a sec.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    ARC for review. Don't pick this one up thinking it's going to be a fun, "pop culture" book. It's far more academic than that - meticulously researched and well-written, but not exactly a page turner (and it's not intended to be). I first read Peyton Place when I was around thirteen or fourteen. One day I was tired of re-reads of my Little House and Betsy-Tacy books so I looked for something the "adult" bookshelves. The name sounded vaguely familiar so I picked it up (I also found Harrison High a ARC for review. Don't pick this one up thinking it's going to be a fun, "pop culture" book. It's far more academic than that - meticulously researched and well-written, but not exactly a page turner (and it's not intended to be). I first read Peyton Place when I was around thirteen or fourteen. One day I was tired of re-reads of my Little House and Betsy-Tacy books so I looked for something the "adult" bookshelves. The name sounded vaguely familiar so I picked it up (I also found Harrison High and The Sterile Cuckoo this way - quite an education into high school/college sex). Peyton Place is one of those titles - many people my age and older remember reading it very vividly because of its sexual content, if for no other reason. For me PP also left quite an impression because, to the extent I thought about such things, I didn't think they were the part of small-town life - surely these things took place only in big, scary cities, right? And even though I read this in the early 1980s, I still recognized some of the class distinctions and sexism in that they still existed in my small Southern town. However, what I DIDN'T get from this book (at thirteen, and I re-read it several times) was that it had marked a shift in American values, and that's what Cameron is interested in here - we look at the outcry following its original publication in 1956 (apparently it was much like 50 Shades of Gray in that everyone was either reading it or not reading it, but still discussing it). Kinsey's studies on American sexuality had been published and discussed at length, so this was the right book at the right time, and Cameron spends much of the book dissecting readers' reactions and well as the effect the publication on its author Grace Metalious (which is actually quite interesting). A reader also shouldn't expect a lot of picking apart of the text itself - most of the incidents in the book are examined very generally, as the author assumes the reader is quite familiar with the book. If you list Peyton Place as your one of your all-time favorite books, this will certainly interest you - otherwise, it's probably a lot of detail for the casual reader. I enjoyed though, and was glad I spent the time to read it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Albert

    Unbuttoning America: A Biography of Peyton Place by Ardis Cameron is a social commentary of the impact of what would become one of the most controversial novels of its era and would shape American Women's fiction for generations to come. It is at times unnerving as it is honest. An impactful summary of a time in America when the dirty little secrets of small town America were kept carefully hidden. "...Not surprisingly, proponents of women's rights were there from the beginning, defending a woman Unbuttoning America: A Biography of Peyton Place by Ardis Cameron is a social commentary of the impact of what would become one of the most controversial novels of its era and would shape American Women's fiction for generations to come. It is at times unnerving as it is honest. An impactful summary of a time in America when the dirty little secrets of small town America were kept carefully hidden. "...Not surprisingly, proponents of women's rights were there from the beginning, defending a woman's right to read whatever her heart desired, more or less. But the relationship between fiction, fantasy, and femininity raised for feminists as well a number of troubling questions..." Peyton Place was published in 1956 and became a literary phenomenon. A bestseller about murder, incest, female desire and social injustice. It was condemned by leaders in politics and the clergy for its immorality. The author, Grace Metalious, was an unknown writer. A housewife who wrote her stories in her spare time. She would come upon the lurid tale of murder and rape that would be the basis of her novel and catapult her into international fame. The term Peyton Place, to this day, refers to a small town and its secrets. "...the novel found cultural traction as a salacious, spicy, even 'sexsational' novel, a reputation the publishing industry kindled. Even before it hit the bookshelves, the novel was marketed as so shocking that it had caused the dismissal of the author's husband from his teaching job. Pictures on the front pages of New England newspapers showed a smile Grace Metalious surrounded by her family and her unemployed husband, George. What kind of wife could do such a thing? What kind of mother could write such a book..." Peyton Place was based loosely upon the murder of Sylvester Roberts by his daughter Barbara in the village of Gilmanton, New Hampshire, in the fall of 1947. The trial would show that Barbara did in fact kill her father, but it would also bring to light the years of abuse she suffered at his hands. The beatings and the rapes. In the writing of Peyton Place, Metalious was told to make certain changes to her novel. Changes that her publishers demanded. In her book, the daughter Selena was raped by her stepfather and not her father. In the book, they were poor white trash and not the landowners that the Roberts of Gilmanton, New Hampshire were. Regardless of the truth, only a poor, impoverished family would commit incest. And only a stepfather would, certainly not a good church going father. The pivotal scene in the novel, where the frightened teenage daughter is forced to seek out an abortion. The result of her father's continual rapes. The scene where the town doctor must decide what to do nearly twenty years before Roe vs Wade, during a time that performing an abortion would sentence him to prison. "...You've lost, Matthew Swain, it said. You've lost. Death, venereal disease and organized religion, in that order, eh? Don't ever let me hear you open your mouth again. You are setting out deliberately this night to inflict death, rather than to protect the life as you are sworn to do. 'Feeling better, Selena?' asked the doctor, stepping into the darkened bedroom. 'Oh, Doc. I wish I were dead.' 'Come on now,' he said cheerfully. 'We'll take care of everything and fix you up as good as new.' And to hell with you, he told the silent voice. I am protecting Life, this life, the one already being lived by Selena Cross..." Peyton Place came on the American cultural scene at a time when Leave it to Beaver, Father knows Best and Gunsmoke ruled the television screen. White Christmas and Singing In the Rain ruled the movie screen. A novel, and subsequent television show about the salacious and lurid secrets of small town America unnerved the established programming Gods but the American Housewife ate it up like candy. As they would eat up a trio of novels about a young innocent girl being initiated into a BDSM sexual relationship seventy years later. The daytime soap operas changed dramatically after Peyton Place. More importantly, it brought out in the open for discussion, sexual abuse of young girls and the social response of blaming the promiscuity of the young girl and not the man involved. In its way, it began a change in the landscape of the American perspective. Ardis Cameron has written a meticulously researched book on the social, emotional and political ramifications of the novel Peyton Place. She argues, by intention or not, the novel became a rallying cry in the battle for recognition in feminism and civil rights. A voice given to those, that as an society, we chose to not believed even existed. An important book. A very well written book. A good read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    Like many others my age, I've never read Peyton Place, but have heard the term used as a term for something sordid. I was generally aware of the uproar around it when published, and the phenomena it was, but I wasn't sure on the details. This book was super enlightening and interesting. It did my favorite thing, which is adding scholarly criticism and critique to something generally considered "low brow." I'm of the opinion we can learn a lot about the society we live in when we interrogate the Like many others my age, I've never read Peyton Place, but have heard the term used as a term for something sordid. I was generally aware of the uproar around it when published, and the phenomena it was, but I wasn't sure on the details. This book was super enlightening and interesting. It did my favorite thing, which is adding scholarly criticism and critique to something generally considered "low brow." I'm of the opinion we can learn a lot about the society we live in when we interrogate the art it makes, and this book was a really great deep dive into feminism, gender roles, class issues, immigration, racism, rape, abortion, and the chafing of so many Americans against what's sometimes referred to as a wholesome "golden era" of American history (*cough cough* if you were a middle class white dude). The author of the book Peyton Place is such an interesting person, both for her brains and success, and her struggles. It's so hard not to empathize with her as she moves through her life trying to maximize love and attention, and pay homage to characters like the people she actually knew instead of cleaned up, moral version of what her publishers want. The story line around the sexual assault and incest in the book was particularly riveting. This book manages to take a lot of real life stories happening at the time, and one of the most fascinating parts to me was the inclusion of so many letters to the author where people thanked her so profusely for helping them feel less alone. I think there's probably timely analogies between Peyton Place and 50 Shades of Grey (and even maybe Twilight) and the derision of what's considered chick-lit or for the people. There was so much to pick apart in literary marketing, much of which is sadly still applicable. Entire industries running on the dollars of people they want to pretend don't exist, critics talking down to people about what they do or don't know or like, and women in particular being seen as less serious or scholarly when they tell their stories. Pulps, mob novels, and romance novels are also discussed in this larger conversation at length. There was also some really interesting conversations about the growth of society as a whole! So many people talked about finding some of the sex scenes racy when it was published because it was so new to see it in print, and going back after learning more about feminism and finally understanding the violence and hurt the author was trying to portray when it was published. For a pulp novel, Grace was surely ahead of her time in many ways, and the world is not usually kind to women who are. Recommended if you like to dissect history, gender, politics through the lenses of the artifacts it leaves behind.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Susanne

    An interesting book (once you get done wading through a good deal of literary jargon)that takes a close look at American attitudes to class, gender and sexuality over the years. It's hard to remember how startling -- how shocking -- "Peyton Place" seemed when it was published back in 1956. Harder now to countenance the fact that it was female sexuality rather than the rampant domestic violence in the book that seemed to shock most folks. (Astonishing, too, to realize that the hugely popular film An interesting book (once you get done wading through a good deal of literary jargon)that takes a close look at American attitudes to class, gender and sexuality over the years. It's hard to remember how startling -- how shocking -- "Peyton Place" seemed when it was published back in 1956. Harder now to countenance the fact that it was female sexuality rather than the rampant domestic violence in the book that seemed to shock most folks. (Astonishing, too, to realize that the hugely popular film and TV series that followed the book were totally bowdlerized by 1960s media executives.) If it does nothing else, this book will make you want to run out and read the original again: now THAT's a compelling read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    ARC from Netgalley. Interesting look at Metalious & her controversial Peyton Place. Author did research & it is well written. Loved the use of fan letters. I feel reading this shortly after Peyton Place gave me interesting perspective. If you enjoyed Peyton Place and this era, I think you would definitely find this book very interesting! I was kindly provided with a review copy of this by the publisher via NetGalley.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    A smorgasbord of different topics all mixed together that held my interest throughout the audio tape: unwed mothers, publishing, fame, television, sex, Peyton Place, writing, Grace Metalious, and more. I would love to take Ardis Cameron's class on Peyton Place. A smorgasbord of different topics all mixed together that held my interest throughout the audio tape: unwed mothers, publishing, fame, television, sex, Peyton Place, writing, Grace Metalious, and more. I would love to take Ardis Cameron's class on Peyton Place.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    If you are not familiar with the book "Peyton Place", you will be lost and confused. If you enjoyed "Peyton Place", this book will be mildly interesting. The author delivers a cultural and historical analysis of the 1950's revolving around Peyton Place. The book is well-written but not engaging. This book drags on at times about societal impacts and drawing conclusions. The biography of Metalious is interesting and well-researched. Cameron is a good author , but this book was a struggle to finis If you are not familiar with the book "Peyton Place", you will be lost and confused. If you enjoyed "Peyton Place", this book will be mildly interesting. The author delivers a cultural and historical analysis of the 1950's revolving around Peyton Place. The book is well-written but not engaging. This book drags on at times about societal impacts and drawing conclusions. The biography of Metalious is interesting and well-researched. Cameron is a good author , but this book was a struggle to finish.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Christine Mathieu

    For somebody whose native language is not English it's rather difficult to read. Ardis Cameron wrote her thesis on "Peyton Place". But it still contains lots of interesting facts on Grace Metalious' life and what inspired her to write her two novels on Peyton Place. I just wish it would also include the TV series (1964 - 1969) as that actually fascinates me more than the novels and the movies from the 1950's and 1960's. For somebody whose native language is not English it's rather difficult to read. Ardis Cameron wrote her thesis on "Peyton Place". But it still contains lots of interesting facts on Grace Metalious' life and what inspired her to write her two novels on Peyton Place. I just wish it would also include the TV series (1964 - 1969) as that actually fascinates me more than the novels and the movies from the 1950's and 1960's.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Merit

    This is not... really A Biography of Peyton Place, if that's what you were after. More it is about the social themes and mores that influenced the the development of the story, background of the author Grace Metalious, the clash between literary and paperback fiction, and a lot more. But not A Biography of Peyton Place. This is not... really A Biography of Peyton Place, if that's what you were after. More it is about the social themes and mores that influenced the the development of the story, background of the author Grace Metalious, the clash between literary and paperback fiction, and a lot more. But not A Biography of Peyton Place.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    Shamefully, I hadn’t heard of Peyton Place or Grace M before reading this, but the author examines the phenomenon of this groundbreaking novel from EVERY possible angle. It’s a fascinating journey into the psyche of America.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brian DiNitto

    Good insight on the time and the place of the release of Peyton Place, such a powerful feminist book of its time.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Angtburg

    Historical details of real life for setting of the scandalous book

  16. 5 out of 5

    Al

    "Peyton Place." For the baby-boomer generation, the name evokes that "dirty" best-selling novel that everyone read surreptitiously or didn't read but complained about. Others, like me, just remember the ABC television show, the first prime-time soap in America with its cliffhanger endings. As it turned out, it shared little with the novel except the characters' names, but it was enough to launch the careers of Mia Farrow and Ryan O'Neal. But for most others, "Peyton Place" has little resonance t "Peyton Place." For the baby-boomer generation, the name evokes that "dirty" best-selling novel that everyone read surreptitiously or didn't read but complained about. Others, like me, just remember the ABC television show, the first prime-time soap in America with its cliffhanger endings. As it turned out, it shared little with the novel except the characters' names, but it was enough to launch the careers of Mia Farrow and Ryan O'Neal. But for most others, "Peyton Place" has little resonance today; its housewife turned author died at 39 from liver damage in 1964 buried in the small New Hampshire town of Gilmanton she fictionalized. In "Unbuttoning America," scholar Ardis Cameron attempts to remind us of the novel's importance beyond its sales history as the fastest-selling novel ever published. Cameron puts the novel in the context of several trends in publishing and America: the introduction of paperbacks, the suffocating morality of small-town fifties America, the emerging opportunities for women writers and the morality brushback from the Kinsey reports. Grace Metalious herself became an early example of a "celebrity" author with her rise from poverty as a mother of three and school teacher's wife casting her in the media's often unforgiving spotlight. If "Peyton Place" was snobbishly ignored by the literary establishment of the day, it was loved for its honesty and relatability by many readers who wrote gratefully to Metalious; their letters make the most heartfelt impact in Cameron's book. While it's funny in retrospect to see a shocked nation recoil in horror at a mere novel ("In upscale Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, a sign posted on the library's front lawn read, 'This library does not carry Peyton Place. If you want it, go to Salem."), it is good to remind current readers how far America has come since the fifties. "Unbuttoning America" is a hybrid of popular culture history and academic study with the first part of the book suffering a bit from too much literary analysis. But the last half of the short book covers the novel's publication and aftermath and makes for compelling reading. "Unbuttoning America" succeeds in elevating a largely forgotten author and book to reconsideration and rediscovery. This story behind the success of "Peyton Place" is well worth reading.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    It's hard to imagine what a splash Peyton Place made when it came out in the Fifties. It addressed issues that were largely not discussed except in whispers, issues such as incest, child abuse, date rape, and perhaps the most dangerous of all, feminism. Of course it was the sex that sold the book, and that's what most people remember about it even today. Ardis Cameron looks at Peyton Place in its mid-century historical context, as a publishing phenomenon, at its incarnations as a movie and as a It's hard to imagine what a splash Peyton Place made when it came out in the Fifties. It addressed issues that were largely not discussed except in whispers, issues such as incest, child abuse, date rape, and perhaps the most dangerous of all, feminism. Of course it was the sex that sold the book, and that's what most people remember about it even today. Ardis Cameron looks at Peyton Place in its mid-century historical context, as a publishing phenomenon, at its incarnations as a movie and as a TV series, at the reactions among critics and fans, and at the author, Grace Metalious, herself. The divide that Peyton Place exposed was evident in a single household. While noted critic Bernard De Voto was harrumphing over the "cultural tripe" that was infesting the literary world, his wife, book reviewer and editor Avis De Voto got a letter from family friend Julia Child saying she had "quite enjoyed it." She said that Metalious "does have a style, and a manner of creating atmosphere and character." And that having finished Peyton Place, she was ready to return to the Goethe she'd been tackling before that. Metalious wrote Peyton Place as a serious effort, not as is suggested by the lurid paperback cover art, as pulp fiction. In a way, it was as much a protest against the status quo as was Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, which wouldn't appear until 1963, seven years after the debut of Peyton Place. Metalious was considered an outsider of sorts due to her "exotic" ethnicity of French Canadian and her husband's Greek heritage. She would never be allowed to fit in, so she decided to stand out. Cameron makes an academic treatment of literature into a fascinating ride into Fifties culture, angst, publishing and bookselling, the results of sudden fame and fortune, and reverberations that reach into the 21st century.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    (Audiobook). I checked this one out on a whim, not knowing what to expect. I ended up learning a lot more than I expected and found it surprisingly engaging. The book focuses on the runaway bestseller Peyton Place and the subsequent firestorm of publicity it set off. The author takes the work and explores various themes and historical concepts the book touches on, from how society's view on sex, crime, the role of women in society, etc. It also follows the real-life story that inspired the work, (Audiobook). I checked this one out on a whim, not knowing what to expect. I ended up learning a lot more than I expected and found it surprisingly engaging. The book focuses on the runaway bestseller Peyton Place and the subsequent firestorm of publicity it set off. The author takes the work and explores various themes and historical concepts the book touches on, from how society's view on sex, crime, the role of women in society, etc. It also follows the real-life story that inspired the work, as well as the life story of the author that wrote it. It does read like a book one would find in a women's studies class, but it is written well enough that a casual reader would find it intriguing. The book started slow, but it started to pick up interest as it went along. If you stopped after the first quarter, you might decided to put it down and not progress, but it got better the longer it went. I have never read the actual book, but after this, I might have to check it out (not for the kids though...even if it was written 60 years ago). Granted, many of the controversial themes and subjects would not be so taboo today, but still, to read a book that caused such a firestorm. The narrator is okay. I have heard more engaging readers, but overall, not a bad read and you can learn a few things as well.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I got an ARC through NetGalley. I'm always interested in the intersection between pop culture and academia, so this was a fascinating read even though I'm young enough to have never read or seen anything to do with Peyton Place beyond references in old movies. It's clear that the author did her research, which makes for a fantastic multi-faceted look at the state of sexual politics, Cold War social expectations, the trivialization of feminine voices and spaces in literature by the male-dominated I got an ARC through NetGalley. I'm always interested in the intersection between pop culture and academia, so this was a fascinating read even though I'm young enough to have never read or seen anything to do with Peyton Place beyond references in old movies. It's clear that the author did her research, which makes for a fantastic multi-faceted look at the state of sexual politics, Cold War social expectations, the trivialization of feminine voices and spaces in literature by the male-dominated Literati, race and gender exploration, and how the publishing industry actually functioned when Grace Metalious began putting the work together. My one criticism is that it feels like the chapters could be better organized, and that certain lines and phrases tend to be repeated. I'm not sure if the author thinks her audience would forget what they read in a previous chapter, but it stands out a little, and almost feels as if the prologue gives away a lot of the punchlines and reveals in later chapters. All said, I'll be finishing this one up and heading down to the library to pick up a copy of Peyton Place just to see what all the fuss is about!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Wilkins

    Social and literary history from the 1950's. This is a lady professor's study of how Peyton Place fits into the cultural and historical time period of the 50's. I was too young and goody goody to pay attention to Peyton Place the book, movie or TV show, although my mother did watch the TV show. I knew nothing about the author. I still feel no desire to read the book because I don't especially like "low-life" stories but this study was interesting in placing the book at the beginning or just befo Social and literary history from the 1950's. This is a lady professor's study of how Peyton Place fits into the cultural and historical time period of the 50's. I was too young and goody goody to pay attention to Peyton Place the book, movie or TV show, although my mother did watch the TV show. I knew nothing about the author. I still feel no desire to read the book because I don't especially like "low-life" stories but this study was interesting in placing the book at the beginning or just before the feminist movement took off and how the author was very much a victim of her times and her fame. She had many fans and always replied to their letters. She died young at 39 in 1964 of alcoholism. Apparently the strict conformity of the 50's started to come unglued and led to the sexual revolution of the 60's about 1956 when Peyton Place was published and Hugh Hefner was having success with Playboy magazine. It was interesting to learn how difficult it was to get books in the 50's and 60's with library and mail restrictions and few bookstores. How easy we have it now to have Amazon!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I've recently become interested in 'chick lit' as a phenomenon. It's not normally a genre I read, but I find it interesting because it has a pull for many women, and I think it's interesting to think about how and why. What are the tropes that pull people in? What sort of emotional release does it provide? Somehow this book came up in my searches and I was incredibly intrigued. Not ONLY is this about one of those provocative sorts of novels, but it also has deep roots in NH. AND it's an ethnograp I've recently become interested in 'chick lit' as a phenomenon. It's not normally a genre I read, but I find it interesting because it has a pull for many women, and I think it's interesting to think about how and why. What are the tropes that pull people in? What sort of emotional release does it provide? Somehow this book came up in my searches and I was incredibly intrigued. Not ONLY is this about one of those provocative sorts of novels, but it also has deep roots in NH. AND it's an ethnography of a book--a booknography, of sorts [I know that's a terrible language-mixing portmanteau but 'bibliography' has other connotations]. It reminds me of My Life in Middlemarch in that way--weaving in the book's plot, cultural impact, and the life of it's author [foregoing the memoir-ish aspects in this case.] It's really neat, and definitely made me want to read "Peyton Place", which I hadn't even heard of prior to reading this book. I think Cameron makes a good argument for why Peyton Place is so interesting and important, and I hope to see more books like this in the future.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Priscilla Herrington

    Ardis Cameron is a gifted writer of social history. In Unbuttoning America: A Biography of Peyton Place she positions the Grace Metalious novel at the very edge of the sexual revolution and the modern Women's Movement. I remember reading Peyton Place as a high school student. I was so very impressed by Metalious' description of Indian Summer with which the book opens. I read the book through then, and many more times over the years. I felt I knew the characters and the New England town. Cameron i Ardis Cameron is a gifted writer of social history. In Unbuttoning America: A Biography of Peyton Place she positions the Grace Metalious novel at the very edge of the sexual revolution and the modern Women's Movement. I remember reading Peyton Place as a high school student. I was so very impressed by Metalious' description of Indian Summer with which the book opens. I read the book through then, and many more times over the years. I felt I knew the characters and the New England town. Cameron includes excerpts from fan letters written to Metalious, and I see that I was one of many who FINALLY felt understood! For me, Unbuttoning America was in large part a nostalgic revisiting of my teens and early twenties; however, make no mistake: Cameron is a serious scholar who finds in Peyton Place both a description of Everywoman's private life and an instrument of change as women's private longings become public and validated.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sylvia Snowe

    I listened to this on audiobook, and that certainly made it easier to get through the dense concepts presented. Unless you like academic, deeply researched journalistic writing, you won't like this. If you do, this is an astounding exploration of the effect of the original novel of Peyton Place on our stilted society of the 1950s. I especially found eye opening the many changes in American society, where once we actually accepted people who didn't marry, were maybe gay, had illegitimate children I listened to this on audiobook, and that certainly made it easier to get through the dense concepts presented. Unless you like academic, deeply researched journalistic writing, you won't like this. If you do, this is an astounding exploration of the effect of the original novel of Peyton Place on our stilted society of the 1950s. I especially found eye opening the many changes in American society, where once we actually accepted people who didn't marry, were maybe gay, had illegitimate children, etc. to one where we obsessed over deviant sexual behavior. In the fifties, Americans suddenly became obsessed with heterosexual monogamy as indicators of normalcy. This is only a sliver of the intriguing concepts presented by this great book. Read it for a great mind adventure. Or do what I did, borrow it on audiobook from your library.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    Meticulously researched, academically informed but always keeping the balance between scholarship and accessibility, this is a fascinating and informative exploration of Peyton Place its literary, historical, social and cultural context. The author looks at contemporary American attitudes to sex and morality, gender and feminism, and has produced a wide-ranging and detailed account of why the book became such a bestseller offering a fresh analysis of why it struck such a chord with the American Meticulously researched, academically informed but always keeping the balance between scholarship and accessibility, this is a fascinating and informative exploration of Peyton Place its literary, historical, social and cultural context. The author looks at contemporary American attitudes to sex and morality, gender and feminism, and has produced a wide-ranging and detailed account of why the book became such a bestseller offering a fresh analysis of why it struck such a chord with the American public. Very well written, full of interesting facts, with concise biographical information about Grace Metalious herself and an account of the TV and film adaptations that followed publication of the book. A great read – as indeed Peyton Place itself still is.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This book is both more and less scholarly than I expected, but it's a terrific read. It describes the world that shaped Grace Metalious, Peyton Place's author, and the inspirations for the book. Many women wrote Metalious after Peyton Place was published, and shared their own stories and pain. Some of their letters are quoted in the book to help demonstrate that 1950s America was not quite the straitlaced, ultra-moral environment that some would have us believe. Informed by the author's personal This book is both more and less scholarly than I expected, but it's a terrific read. It describes the world that shaped Grace Metalious, Peyton Place's author, and the inspirations for the book. Many women wrote Metalious after Peyton Place was published, and shared their own stories and pain. Some of their letters are quoted in the book to help demonstrate that 1950s America was not quite the straitlaced, ultra-moral environment that some would have us believe. Informed by the author's personal reminiscences, interviews with people from Metalious's past, and a wealth of other resources, Unbuttoning America is a fascinating look at a book that still shocks today.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Aishuu

    I have been curious about Peyton Place for a while. My first recollection of hearing the term is from Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, and I had no clue what it was about from knowing it was a 1950s book and tv series. This was interesting, and well set in the context of the time period. That said, the book wasn't that well organized, and the author repeats the same quotations three to four times. It felt like it had a lot of padding. I did learn about the fifties culture, but through a somewhat mu I have been curious about Peyton Place for a while. My first recollection of hearing the term is from Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, and I had no clue what it was about from knowing it was a 1950s book and tv series. This was interesting, and well set in the context of the time period. That said, the book wasn't that well organized, and the author repeats the same quotations three to four times. It felt like it had a lot of padding. I did learn about the fifties culture, but through a somewhat muddied narrative frame.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Anjuli

    Don't pick this one up thinking it's going to be a fun, "pop culture" book. It's far more academic than that - meticulously researched and well-written, but not exactly a page turner (and it's not intended to be). It is incredibly enjoyable and very very interesting. This was an excellent and interesting book to get my teeth into. It is also the perfect time to read it ---for those who are still curious about the 'hype' of "Fifty Shades of Gray"....and for those who were fans of Peyton Place. Rem Don't pick this one up thinking it's going to be a fun, "pop culture" book. It's far more academic than that - meticulously researched and well-written, but not exactly a page turner (and it's not intended to be). It is incredibly enjoyable and very very interesting. This was an excellent and interesting book to get my teeth into. It is also the perfect time to read it ---for those who are still curious about the 'hype' of "Fifty Shades of Gray"....and for those who were fans of Peyton Place. Remember the old saying, "History repeats itself"?

  28. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    Very interesting: scholarly without being too dry, with still enough to ooh and aah over. The Kindle edition did contain the photos as well, which adds some interest. Some of the content wanders around, but to be fair, I read this on my phone, and over a long period of time. I might not have needed so much structure if I had been reading more closely. One of Cameron's provocative notions is that Peyton Place made The Feminine Mystique possible, and provides some evidence to back that up. Fan lett Very interesting: scholarly without being too dry, with still enough to ooh and aah over. The Kindle edition did contain the photos as well, which adds some interest. Some of the content wanders around, but to be fair, I read this on my phone, and over a long period of time. I might not have needed so much structure if I had been reading more closely. One of Cameron's provocative notions is that Peyton Place made The Feminine Mystique possible, and provides some evidence to back that up. Fan letters also suggest that Kinsey was right on target.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    The book is a great telling of the literary history of feminism in the first half of the 20th century as well as the publishing world. This provided insight into the darker underworld and subculture of the 1950s – one which many generations since are unaware of as we are subjected to the idea that these were the best of times for everyone. A golden age of idealism and an idyllic way of American life. More pictures of Peyton Place’s pop culture contributions, promotions, the movie/series, charact The book is a great telling of the literary history of feminism in the first half of the 20th century as well as the publishing world. This provided insight into the darker underworld and subculture of the 1950s – one which many generations since are unaware of as we are subjected to the idea that these were the best of times for everyone. A golden age of idealism and an idyllic way of American life. More pictures of Peyton Place’s pop culture contributions, promotions, the movie/series, character sketches, etc. would have been much appreciated.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    I checked the audiobook out on a whim, and I am happy to say it exceeded my expectations. I found it more interesting, insightful, and relevant than I expected. This "biography" isn't just about the author, or the book and its sanitized adaptations, but about the feelings and concerns it tapped into, and the cultural impact it had. At times I got the feeling that the author meant to make a point that it never made, or that it could have benefitted from more focus, but I think the author was ulti I checked the audiobook out on a whim, and I am happy to say it exceeded my expectations. I found it more interesting, insightful, and relevant than I expected. This "biography" isn't just about the author, or the book and its sanitized adaptations, but about the feelings and concerns it tapped into, and the cultural impact it had. At times I got the feeling that the author meant to make a point that it never made, or that it could have benefitted from more focus, but I think the author was ultimately successful in articulating a case for the novel's significance and value.

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