YARGO, A LOVE STORY
During my trip to Provincetown, I stopped into Tim’s Used Books to search for strange and unusual finds. Sitting prominently on a bookshelf as I entered the store was a book by Valley of the Dolls author Jacqueline Susann which I had never, ever heard of: Yargo: A Love Story. I thought I had read all of Susann’s work – even the weird books like Every Night Josephine about her poodle, and Dolores, her fictionalized account of Jackie O’s marriage to Aristotle. I was eager to read another of her books, especially one that purported to be a ‘love story,’ but there was nothing about the plot on the cover or the back. The only clues about it’s true subject was that the cover featured a lithe woman in a slip staring at the heavens. I had no idea until I took it home and started to read the inside cover blurbs that it was about a woman ‘who is kidnapped by the most handsome man she ever met: a man from outer space!’
Yargo was published in 1979, five years after Susann had died of breast cancer at the age of 53, but it was actually written in the late 1950′s way before any of her other novels. The plot is about a woman named Janet Cooper who’s had her whole life prescribed for her by a domineering mother and patriarchal society. She thinks she’s in love with her fiancee David, a bland, conservative WASP, but worries that she just likes him because her mother picked him out for her. So she goes on a little vacation of sorts – to New Jersey. One night, Janet goes for a walk on the beach one night to think and out of the sky comes a flying saucer with a beam of light and bim bam boom she’s on a voyage to Yargo, the most faraway planet in the solar system with the hottest bald guys she’s ever seen – all of whom magically resemble film actor Yul Brynner. The people on Yargo worship their leader who is named Yargo, and consider it a terrible flaw to show emotion. They have eliminated everything but the purest practical ways of being. But for all their smarts, their plan to kidnap Einstein or Dr. Blount to warn them about the dangers of atomic bombs failed, and they ended up with dumb old Janet. Now it’s time for the foxiest, most emotional secretary in New York City to turn this planet upside down! You will not believe the space adventures she gets up to – especially when she lands on Venus and imprisoned by a race of humans who have evolved into bees and need her womb to return to human form.
According to legend, Jacqueline Susann had a major crush on Yul Brynner and dreamed of nothing more than bedding the King and I star. She wrote this book in hopes that once published, it would be bought by the movie studios and made into a film that would star – you guessed it – Yul Brynner. And who would they ever find to play Janet? Jacqueline Susann. Even if that’s a complete and utter fiction I choose to believe it as fact, because really how amazing is the idea that someone would be that deranged as to plan something like that?
Like many gays I have always been fascinated by Susann’s bizzarely brilliant trash writing style; the combination of ludicrous metaphors and melodramatic dialogue that somehow manages to be thoroughly captivating. But nothing prepared me for Yargo which is like all Susann an absolute page-turner and at the same time a brilliant piece of amateur trash. Yargo now sits in an exalted position on my bookshelf and if you are in New York I will happily loan it to you so that you may go on a magical voyage to the farthest reaches of the solar system to experience a taste of life on Yargo! You will never look at the skies the same way again.
- 31 August 2009