Life at Happy Knoll is an understated satire by a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist I suspect few readers bother reading today. Though in his day, around the time he won the 1938 Pulitzer for The Late George Apley, he was commercially successful and critically well received. So it's a minor shame that, not dusting off the cobwebs of a forgotten novel by John P. Marquand every now and then, in order to enjoy his mid-century skewering of double-talking high society WASPs. Of folks fixated on protecting their precious domestic insularity and supremely shallow social values -- common themes in Marquand's novels and especially Life at Happy Knoll -- that made his primarily WASP audience perhaps chuckle and gasp simultaneously in discomfiting recognition of itself.
Marquand gleefully showed us how his country-clubbers would, of course, and regardless of a member's real or, more importantly, perceived status, never think of bad-mouthing a member for owning a lower class of automobile than their Daddy's Caddy, because that's just not -- obviously meaning it most assuredly is -- how Happy Knoll or Hard Hollowites behave socially. Right! Marquand mocked them, gifted and deft as he was conveying their subtle double-speak, double standards and general snootiness. Marquand's country club masses are too deluded by their own hypocrisy and masks to remember they're all merely average achievers at best, and in no position whatsoever to be judging anybody within or without the narrow-minded strictures of what amounts to their stunted development, these supposed adults stuck in their extended adolescence for decades removed from their proms, rehashing the petty jealousies and insecurities of their high school cliques.
Marquand first published Life at Happy Knoll near the end of his career in recurring installments (1955-1957) for Sports Illustrated. The magazine's golf aficionados made the series a success, and soon Marquand's publisher cashed in on the country club craze, releasing the complete series as a short epistolary novel the summer of 1957.
A good introduction to The Novels of John P. Marquand.
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