Rubyfruit Jungle

I am stalking the NYC Bluestockings book group, and this was one under consideration recently. Molly Bolt is the sassy, take-no-shit from anybody narrator, first met in the hillbilly hollows of Pennsylvania where she lights on a scheme to charge her classmates money to look at her uncircumcised pal, Brockhurst AKA Broccoli. When busted, her mother Carrie reveals her contempt, thought she was better than to mess around with boys in the woods, and lets loose that Molly is adopted. No matter, Molly continues on, creating “raisins” out of a mix of real raisins and rabbit poop to give to an enemy, socking her friend Cheryl in the mouth when Cheryl makes the mistake of telling Molly that brains don’t count, only boys can be doctors and girls become nurses. In sixth grade, she falls in love with Leota Bisland, and they become the closest of friends, eventually kissing each other after school. Molly’s paradise is threatened when the family moves to Florida. There, Molly figures out that being funny is way to fit in if she doesn’t have enough money for nice clothes and because she doesn’t want to be grouped with the poor Florida rednecks. She continues to get grief from her adopted mother, Carrie, but love from father Carl, who’s not long for the world, soon keeling over with a heart attack. She pals around with Connie and Carolyn, and one night they get some fodder for blackmail on their principal who’s tooling around town with a woman who’s not his wife. Molly turns this into being school president, and Connie guarantees herself the editor gig of the yearbook. Oh, and cousin Leroy is here all along, having taken Molly’s virginity away (questionable, because of the Leota fun she had earlier), but they grow further and further apart, not having much in common except their childhoods.
Molly muses:

But then I had never thought I had much in common with anybody. I had no mother, no father, no roots, no biological similarities called sisters and brothers. And for a future I didn’t want a split-level home with a station wagon, pastel refrigerator, and a houseful of blonde children evenly spaced through the years. I didn’t want to walk into the page of McCall’s magazine and become the model housewife. I didn’t even want a husband or any man for that matter. I wanted to go my own way. That’s all I think I ever wanted, to go my own way and maybe find some love here and there. Love, but not the now and forever kind with chains around your vagina and a short circuit in your brain. I’d rather be alone.

Molly gets a full ride to U of Florida in Gainsville, where she and her roommate get up to tricks and her scholarship is eventually revoked for moral reasons. Mother Carrie wants nothing to do with her, so sends her right back out the door once she comes home. With $14 in her pocket, she begins to hitchhike to NYC, one of the rides giving her an additional $10. With $24 in her pocket, she sleeps in a car in the Village, meeting Calvin, who shows her around the hood and gets her a $100 one-time gig throwing grapefruit at a man who got off on it. She uses the money to get an apartment, and finds a waitressing job at a diner, enrolls herself in film school. A grim and giddy look at poverty and the gay scene in the late 1960s in NYC, but she perseveres, pushing herself past the sexism in school. She’s not allowed to ever rent any of the equipment, so she steals a camera and film and goes down to Florida to film Carrie in a rocking chair for her senior thesis. Edited down to twenty minutes, Carrie talks about her life, the price of meat, the state of the world. The last thing she says is, “I’m gonna turn this house into a big gingerbread cake with icing on the corners. Then when those goddamn bill collectors come after me I just tell ’em to break off a piece of the house and leave me alone. In time they eat the whole house, then I’ll be sitting’ out in the sunshine that the good Lord made. I’ll be out in the lilies of the field that’s richer than all King Solomon’s gold. That ain’t a bad way to die when yer as old as I am.” She laughs a strong laugh and the film cuts out as the laugh does.