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Showing posts from February, 2013

Life at Happy Knoll by John P. Marquand

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.

Happy Knoll and Hard Hollow country clubs are in a constant letter writing battle (that's all the novel is -- the correspondence of rival boards of governors pandering to potential new members to join their country …

The Fan Man by William Kotzwinkle

Man, I dig The Fan Man, man, the way I dug Spinal Tap, man.  The Fan Man is Spinal Tap for hippies, man.  A spoof about hippies, man, or one hippie, Horse Badorties, man.  The book is a raucous, politically incorrect, purposely offensive and misogynistic, sexist, soberphobic hysterical satire, man.  It is appalling, yet so appealing, man.  That Horse Badorties thinks he runs a music academy that is just a front for luring fifteen year old "chicks" he yearns to score with, man, back at his disgusting pad, man (when he has a pad and isn't homeless, man) is the appalling aspect, man, while watching him act so clumsily and cluelessly that he can't complete the deal with the underage chickadees, man, is the appealing aspect, man, when he foils himself in his endearingly stoned stupidity, man.  Horse Badorties is so clueless, man, he doesn't know he's a clueless man.

He uses the word "man" in every utterance, every sentence, man, the way Valley Girls us…

Place Last Seen by Charlotte McGuinn Freeman

A child with Down syndrome gets lost in Desolation Wilderness in the high country west of Lake Tahoe on a family day hike in early autumn.   Like most kids, Maggie enjoys hiding in the house from her parents.   She's a particularly gifted, stubborn hider.  So saying she "got lost" -- as if she'd become disoriented and couldn't locate the whereabouts of her older brother and parents as they picnicked beside an alpine lake in the crisp Sierra Nevada air, isn't exactly accurate, since Maggie got "lost" on purpose.  All it took was a second when her father turned his attention toward a lodgepole pine, the kind of pines most common at this high altitude, to discreetly pee behind. Maggie, more observant than most in her life realize, takes off at the chance, wandering cross country in just a minute into the rugged terrain to play her favorite game, hide-and-go-seek.

So of course Maggie wouldn't respond when her parents shouted her name.  Perhaps a &…