WASN'T THE GRASS GREENER? by Barbara Holland


A Curmudgeon's Fond Memories
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Using the art of the essay—a form Dr. Johnson called “a loose sally of the mind”—Holland (Endangered Pleasures, 1995) presents miscellaneous reveries of past delights. Though it may help, one is not obliged to be a geezer to be captured by the charm of most of Holland’s ardent recollections. Not long ago, she convinces us, the grass was emerald green, the sky bright azure. Her concerns include funny old customs like greeting passersby from front porches and sending telegrams to transmit big news. Gone are America’s great factories and grand department stores. Do people still gather round pianos to sing? Do windows still open to unregulated ambient air? Are things mended anymore? What happened to liquor cabinets? What happened to poems that scanned and rhymed and were memorized? What happened to us? If all this sounds reactionary, perhaps it is; or perhaps it’s just nostalgia. The essay “Homogeneity” might (unfairly) be read as regressive. Maybe that is simply an inherent danger in a testament to a time not so long ago when, in nicely observed retrospect, things seemed a lot better. Once, all we had to worry about was atomic destruction. Now, along with proper disposal of plastic wrapping and kids’ unsupervised play, we worry about the air that contaminates our toothbrushes. The author remembers “when people who thought germs were nesting in their toothbrushes got slammed into psychotherapy.” The 33 ruminative essays collected here vary in length and topic from the sublime (“Falling in Love” and “Art,” scarcely two pages each) to the mundane (“Radiators,” more than four pages and “Worries,” more than ten pages). Nostalgia, naturally, is tricky. It’s appealing to those who share the recalled pleasures and puzzling to their juniors. This collection, fitting stylistically somewhere between E.B. White and Andy Rooney, should rightfully be taken as a time capsule instructive to younger generations, a source of amazement to those yet unborn. Here’s a felicitous loose sally concerning common practices that have passed largely without notice.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-15-100442-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1999


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by Barbara Holland
NonfictionTHEY WENT WHISTLING by Barbara Holland
by Barbara Holland
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by Barbara Holland