The Lovely Troubled Daughters Of Our Old Crowd by John Updike, 1981
The magic trick:
Embracing the reader with a warm small-town New England hug
Today’s little blast of nostalgia is reminiscent of Lake Wobegon, only subbing out Garrison Keillor’s charm and subbing in an attention to detail that verges on the creepy when it comes to descriptions of the lovely troubled daughters.
But like Lake Wobegon, it captures small-town America – or at least the myth of small-town America – in a friendly, warm embrace. Not to say there isn’t melancholy here. There’s a ton of melancholy. But the melancholy is, in fact, the most crucial part of the warm embrace. The notion that you might have time to wonder about the psychology behind a friend’s daughter’s need to start an antique shop in town is comforting! These are not bad problems!
So in that sense, this is a very reassuring walk down memory lane through small-town New England. And that’s quite a trick on Updike’s part.
On the edge of a Wilcombe lawn party, their pale brushed heads like candles burning in the summer sunlight, a ribbon or a plastic barrette attached for the occasion – I can see them still, their sweet pastel party dresses and their feet bare in the grass, those slender little girl feet, with bony tan toes, that you feel would leave rabbit tracks in the dew.
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