Laurie Colwin’s Insidious Destruction

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Helping the protagonists move towards marital bliss and indulging in motherhood are their best friends. Colwin writes passionately about the love and trust that binds female confidants together. Girlfriends are not just extras, they are there to patiently listen to the troubles of the heroes. They share star bills and stumble on their own dating drama.

The friend is often neurotic, moody, and lacks social kindness. “Rich people make me sick,” Misty Berkowitz says in “Happy Anytime.” She suffers from a constant sense of being a stranger and wears what her husband-to-be calls “the only Jewish look at the dinner table”. But its idiosyncrasies are more fascinating than alarming, and while they fall in love in spite of themselves, they nonetheless offer some of the novel’s most delicious contempt for the vices and pretensions of their urban friends. These honest fellows come onto a stage with fireworks of brash dialogue befitting Nora Ephron or Fran Lebowitz. Colwin himself is not a slacker in the cultural sarcasm department; he has a lot of fun with new fads and enriches his plot with dead physical descriptions (“He was tall and cool and had a thin mouth that more experienced women know, he was a deep lecherous who didn’t kiss too much”).

In Colwin’s latest novel, A Big Storm Knocked It Over, the world’s problems are revealed more aggressively. The best friend runs a catering business with her boyfriend, whom she secretly lives with, out of fear of disapproval from the interracial couple’s terrible family. The novel Colwin was writing at the time of his death was said to be a striking departure from previous work, and it’s tempting to imagine that in the “A Big Storm Knocked It Over” encounter, the couple might have been more preoccupied with casual racism. , even entertained some non-heterosexual pairings. In the conventionality of the matches, her setup shows her age the most, but there’s something quite nostalgic about the endless possibility of marriage she remembers if they actually existed in Manhattan. (So ​​many handsome, greedy, straight, single men! So many spacious, affordable fireplace apartments!) Still, it’s hard to imagine him deviating from his belief that lovers mingle, not real families. and like-minded, accepting friends.

Joy is scary because she feels so fragile. One man in “Passion and Affection” thinks his family life is “so intensely beautiful that he wonders how it contains it.” Why does Colwin demand that happiness should be seen as such a trivial subject for fiction? she gets a close ars poetics On this topic in the “More Home Cooking” section: “What is more interesting than how people live? Personally, I can’t think of anything. Maybe war or death or something, but not for me.” Working as a volunteer cook at a homeless women’s shelter, Colwin despises selfish urban power couples hungry for prestige; She’s much more tolerant of lovers who leave her home for the Sunday paper (pre-internet!), break up chapters at breakfast, and then go back to bed.

An unusual aspect of Colwin dating is how confident women are in their attractiveness, how openly and unapologetically libidinal they are. Widowed at 27 in “Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object,” Olly Bax grieves, but also finds herself “torn by pure lust”, first for her brother-in-law, then for another man. While Polly Solo-Miller Demarest in “Family Happiness” feels baffled enough to look to “Anna Karenina” for life advice about her relationship, the novel surprises her: “Have good people ever felt so miserable?” Polly loves her husband and children, but also adores the sexy artist who adores her on lunch dates.

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