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!