It’s been nine years (!) since V.C. Andrews day on The Toast, so now’s as good a time as any to re-visit the classics:
Robin Wasserman’s interview with Ann Patty, editor for FITA:
I bought the book, I had not been at Pocket for very long. I went to the editor in chief. It was a 98-page manuscript, I said I wanted to buy it, I bought it. It was that simple.
I had always had this vision that I wanted to see those kids on the attic floor on the cover. I kept insisting on it. And once again, I hadn’t been at Pocket Books long, I was—I don’t know—27 years old, I had no cred at all.
We’d been through various jackets, and I just said, “Not right, not right, not right.” Finally there was one, of a woman’s finger pulling a petal off a daisy with a face in the center.
An article from Ann Patty herself about her relationship with Andrews:
“What do you think about a sequel to Flowers?” I began. “Problem is, we need to do it quickly, so it can come out a year from November when Flowers is published.”
We discussed the broad outlines of what it should be: a revenge story, underpinned by the unbreakable, impossible love between Cathy and Chris. Virginia had a wicked sense of humor, and we took turns throwing out plot ideas, devising new miseries for the children to face in the outside world — illness, suicide, obsessive love, sexual transgression, and madness. We were like two teenagers having a schadenfreude party. Virginia’s imagination was one part fairy tale, one part soap opera, with a chaser of Bette Davis. After two hours, we had the outline of the sequel, and a title: Petals on the Wind.
Nicole Cliffe on the future of illicit reading:
Novels (with obvious room for a slew of exceptions on both ends) aren’t even remotely as dirty as they were in twenty or thirty years ago. It was a time when we needed dirt, as a species, without wanting to buy it in embarrassing places, and so when it was given to us by John Irving, or Updike, or VC Andrews (you knew it was coming) or Samuel Delany, in genre fiction or in literary fiction or in Looking for Mr. Goodbar, we grabbed it with both hands and asked for more. And in the pursuit of those two lines, those paragraphs where something was turgid or unbuttoned or damp or pushed against a wall, we read bildungsromans and we read Saul Bellow, and were better for it.
“Look at her, reading The Group. Does she even understand the psychoanalysis stuff?”
No. She is taking it back upstairs when this tedious adult party is over so she can re-read the bit where he says she barely made a mess and his ex-wife had bled like a pig.
Readers’ accounts of their first time reading Flowers in the Attic:
“I saw it on the shelf of a rental cabin on vacation with my family when I was nine. About five minutes into it, my mom saw what I was reading, grabbed it away, and said ‘That’s not for you.'”
“At summer camp, our counselor would gather us all around her bunk bed after lights out and read it to us, like a bedtime story.”
“I was ten years old and my mom forbid me to read it, so I stole it off the library bookshelves and read it anyway.”
April 26th, 1957 - The Dollanganger family — father Christopher, mother Corinne, fourteen-year-old Chris, twelve-year-old Cathy, five-year-old twins Carrie and Cory — live an idyllic life in Gladstone, Pennsylvania, until Christopher Sr. is killed in a car accident, on his birthday, there was a motorist driving a blue Ford weaving in and out of the left-hand lane, apparently drunk, and he crashed head-on into Mr. Dollanganger’s car. But it seems he must have seen the accident coming, for he swerved to avoid a head-on collision, but a piece of machinery had fallen from another car, or truck, and this kept him from completing his correct defensive driving maneuver, which would have saved his life. But as it was, Mr. Dollanganger’s much heavier car turned over several times, and still he might have survived, but an oncoming truck, unable to stop, crashed into his car, and again the Cadillac spun over…and then…it caught on fire.
May 1957 — The four Dollanganger children begin living in the attic of Foxworth Hall, Virginia.
April 1958 — Brussels World’s Fair begins in Belgium, drawing over 41 million visitors.
July 1959 — Corrine Foxworth/Dollanganger/Patterson marries Bartholomew Winslow.
November 29th, 1959 — Malcolm Foxworth dies of heart disease in Foxworth Hall.
October 29, 1960 — Cory Dollanganger dies of arsenic poisoning in the attic of Foxworth Hall.
November 1960 — Chris and Cathy start stealing from their mother’s room. Cathy borrows seventeen bracelets, twenty-six rings, three necklaces, long, dangling diamond earrings, plus a tiara, a black chiffon formal gown, furs, nylon hose, and silver slippers. And night cream, tissues, two paperback books to read when sleep was evasive, a very large and thick book with a colorful dust jacket called How to Create Your Own Needlework Designs, which is actually a disguised copy of the Kama Sutra.
November 10th, 1960 — Cory’s pet mouse Mickey dies of arsenic poisoning, so Chris and Cathy can be absolutely sure that Cory died of arsenic poisoning before running away.
November 28th, 1960 — Mauritania establishes national independence.
January 20, 1961 — JFK, Jr. inaugurated as President.
Valentine’s Day, 1964 — Cathy Dollanganger marries Julian Marquet, the evil ballet dancer, to spite Paul Sheffield, after learning that Paul’s first wife Julia is not dead but in a coma after trying to drown herself years earlier.
September 18th, 1964 — Jonny Quest premieres on ABC.
June 13th, 1968 — Julian Marquet dies.
Valentine’s Day, 1969 — Cathy gives birth to Julian’s posthumous child, Jory Janus Marquet.
July 1972 — End of ceasefire between British Army and the Provisional IRA.
August 8th, 1972 — Carrie Dollanganger dies of arsenic poisoning (self-inflicted).
August 11, 1972 — Last U.S. troops leave Vietnam.
Christmas Eve, 1972 — Cathy attends the Christmas Eve ball at Foxworth Hall, confronting her mother Corinne at the stroke of midnight and revealing her role in poisoning the Dollanganger children. At first, Bart believes Cathy is lying, but after hearing Cathy's whole story, he confronts Corrine. Corrine breaks down, claiming to be the real victim because her father had known his grandchildren were hidden in his home, and he wanted them to die in captivity. Corrine claims she gave the children arsenic to make them sick gradually so she could sneak them out to safety one by one and then tell her parents the children had died in hospital. Bart is visibly disgusted. Cathy demands to know what happened to Cory's body. Corrine says she stashed the body in a ravine, but Cathy accuses her of hiding Cory's body in a small room off the attic that gave off a telltale odor. Chris bursts into the library, and Corrine perceives him as the ghost of his father, her first husband. She suffers a mental breakdown and sets fire to Foxworth Hall. Corrine, Chris, and Cathy escape, but Bart and Olivia are trapped and die in the fire. Corrine is committed to a mental institution.
December 31st, 1972 — Cathy marries Paul Sheffield, who has had four heart attacks.
July 28th, 1972 — Cathy gives birth to Bartholomew Winslow’s posthumous child, Bartholomew Winslow Sheffield.
April 1, 1976 — Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne found Apple Computers in Cupertino, California.
April 11, 1976 — Paul Sheffield dies of a fifth heart attack.
April 1976 — Chris and Cathy move to Fairfax, California with Cathy’s children, Jory and Bart, where they live as husband and wife.
November 1979 — Flowers in the Attic is published by Simon & Schuster.
June 1983 — Cathy and Chris (both using Paul’s last name of Sheffield) adopt Cynthia Jane Nicholls in Fairfax, California.
December 23rd, 1983 — Corrine Foxworth dies in a fire in Fairfax, California.
November 28th, 1986 — I am born in Simi Valley, California.
September 1999 — Christopher Dollanganger. Jr. dies in a car accident in Virginia. Sega introduces the Dreamcast console.
May 2000 — Boo.com is shuttered after six months in part of the dot-com bust. The ILOVEYOU computer virus spreads from the Philippines throughout the rest fo the world.
June 2000 — Cathy Dollanganger dies in Foxworth Hall, Virginia.
June 28th, 2000 — Eliàn Gonzàlez returns to Cuba with his father after the Supreme Court declines to hear arguments in his custody case.
Reading about Flowers in the Attic (never the actual book itself) always sent shivers down my spine. This summation and timeline, however, more than made up for it. Also, hello from Simi Valley!
I believe in a special bond among people born on days that are "sometimes Thanksgiving." You, me, Garry Shandling, Christina Applegate and Charles Starkweather (inter alia).