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gertrude

August 2018

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reading

Fannie Flagg



I spent much of the weekend reading Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg. Five hundred pages and I didn’t want to finish it. I’d already enjoyed Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven and written about it here. I didn’t realize that it was really an afterthought to Rainbow, about the same characters.*

Standing in the Rainbow follows a set of small town Americans from the 1940s to the 1990s. I should think that to many Americans the 1940s section must read like heaven on earth. As the characters get older they start to wonder where it all went wrong, why people have started hating them and so on but it’s far from being a state of the nation book; it’s people who matter. Births, marriages, deaths and yet another disaster for 'Poor Tot Whooten', that’s what it’s all about.

I probably couldn’t have read a book like this when I was younger but now I appreciate goodness more than I did then. Tom Wolfe it ain't but I like it. It occurred to me, reading this absorbing, funny saga, that it’s something no good British writer could possibly get away with. We’re too cynical, too depressed, too fatalistic to cope with can-do and feel-good. I’m as cynical, ironical and miserable as anyone but I suspended these traits for a while to listen to Neighbor Dorothy. She broadcasts from her sitting room for thirty seven years, offering recipes, news and friendship to Missouri farm wives. Now that I’ve finished the book I have to say, like her, 'It’s been so nice visiting with you today'.

*I see I wrote that Norma is Elner's daughter. In Rainbow she's definitely the niece. I need to read Can't Wait again to check. Fannie Flagg does change some things in that book. Now to continue reading backwards and get hold of Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!

Comments

(Anonymous)

Real life 'neighbor Dorothy'

You may be interested in Evelyn Birkby and her co-broadcasters. She is still living and still on the radio.

http://evelynbirkby.com/

and from my blog:

http://lettersfromahillfarm.blogspot.com/2009/04/mamies-sour-cream-cake.html

I am fascinated by your take on the personality differences between the English and the Americans. Do you suppose it is still true among younger people - say in their twenties? This is a subject I haven't given much thought to, but would love you to expound upon it.

Re: Real life 'neighbor Dorothy'

Oh thank you, Nan! Evelyn looks just the way I would expect Neighbor Dorothy to! Everything I knew about small scale broadcasting in the US came from Garrison Keillor. It's so different here, where until very recently radio just meant the BBC.

Hmm, I don't know about these differences; I think they're true for people my age and certainly in the media. You've got me thinking about it now, and pondering! I think the point I was originally making is that over here 'Neighbor Dorothy' would be mocked, rather as people laugh at The People's Friend magazine.

(Anonymous)

Re: Real life 'neighbor Dorothy'

Well, of course you know that I went looking for The People's Friend magazine as soon as I read your words! I think it sounds great. Is the fiction new or do they feature older writing? You may know that I subscribed to the Oldie for a year, but I had to give it up because of the cost; same with Slightly Foxed. Oh, to live over there and walk to a newstand and buy them. It's funny, I just think of Britain in terms of my blogging friends - with nary a mocking tone to be heard.

I'm going to try and listen today to Evelyn B's monthly broadcast:

http://www.kma960.com/

Re: Real life 'neighbor Dorothy'

Ha ha! The clergyman's wife reads it, Mrs M'something, in Pink Sugar! The stories are not very good, TBH but the whole tone of the magazine, home-based, Christian, rather old-fashioned, has a wide appeal. It's very popular in Australia. I'd be happy to send you a copy, if you'd like it?

Slightly Foxed is good but too expensive for me:-)

(Anonymous)

People's Friend

I went looking through my beloved Pink Sugar and found the reference. P. 60! M'Candlish. What a memory you have! (what is TBH?) She didn't leave it out "in case any one thought the Friend, as she called it familiarly to herself, frivolous reading for a minister's wife." I would love a copy. I will email you with my address. Aren't you so thoughtful to offer!!

Re: People's Friend

TBH = to be honest.

I think O Douglas was showing that for all her money, Mrs M'Candish was a very ordinary woman with simple tastes, don't you?

Address safely saved, thanks!
Found this while looking up reviews - hope you don't mind the (late!) comment!

I wonder if you're right about it being more enjoyable when you're older. I'm almost thirty so I think once the book started hitting on the difficulties of being middle aged/elderly, it didn't hit home quite as much. I had other issues with it too, of course - I felt that while it started out great, there was just too little conflict (except for poor Betty Raye's) until the end, when it gets piled up and you're a bit overwhelmed. But maybe that's how life is once you've reached a certain age.

Again, hope you don't mind a late comment from a complete and total stranger!

Edited at 2012-08-05 04:40 pm (UTC)
Delighted to have your comment and interested in your views!

I think I would have found the book dull when I was your age, not because I didn't understand the problems of age (I didn't) but because I was just more of an intellectual snob then. As I said in the review, I'm happier now to read about the quiet lives of good people.