Because three co-workers and I celebrate a “palindrome birthday” this year, we decided to be thrilled about the milestone and splash out with a dessert buffet. Amid the crumbs and frosting, one colleague declared that none of us look our age. Our library staff is noted for the qualities demonstrated by that observation; I refer of course to accuracy and acute perception.
Are the others equally startled to discover fragments (I refuse to call them “artifacts”) from our childhoods in antique stores? Bubble-coiffed Barbies, princess phones, and carrying-cased typewriters and turntables may have morphed into sleeker iterations, but they retain their charm. The era that inspired these products also begat McDonald’s, Disneyland, and the microwave oven–evidence that the 1950s still shape our lives.
50s memorabilia may be “vintage” in the shops, but it’s historical fiction here in the library. It’s also a mini-trend in recent/forthcoming fiction, with themes to intrigue natives of any decade.
Sandra Kring’s How High the Moon (on the library’s May order list) registered first on the mid-century radar. Featuring a precocious 10-year-old narrator, the story’s small-town 1955 setting may enchant you–that is, if you consider find the term “irrepressible” a hook rather than a caution.
Gwen Kirkwood’s Dreams of Home and A Home of Our Own, set in 1950s Scotland, should also arrive at the library late this month. Beginning with Dreams, you can follow the postwar lives of Meg and Steven in the days when food was still rationed and a mass viewing of the Queen’s coronation on TV highlighted the social season.
Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn portrays the early 1950s from both sides of the Atlantic–Ireland and New York. Though characterization is the true star of this novel, period details are infused seamlessly and to wonderful effect.
I haven’t gotten my hands on the library copy of Olga Grushin’s The Line yet. The story was suggested by an actual event, Igor Stravinsky’s return to Russia for one concert. The queue for tickets reportedly formed a year in advance, and Grushin mines the possibilities of the resulting interest group (one critic termed it a “microsociety”) to create suspense and unique social interaction.
Stravinsky’s concert was actually announced in 1962, but The Line is still appropriate for today’s focus. None of us birthday folks recall much before the Sixties anyway! Confronted with wavy B&W images of classic 50s kids’ programming, no one even recognized Howdy Doody.