And one thing led to another

Since my last post on Hemingway a month and a half ago, I have found myself increasingly drawn to writing on and by the literary set in Paris of the 1920s. I read Men without Women, which isn’t about Paris but, as a collection of short stories by Hemingway, was intended to keep me close to ‘the Crowd’ – and not the Lost Generation – as Sylvia Beach refers to her literary (and musical) friends in her memoirs Shakespeare and Company. Loath to part with them, I am currently reading HD’s End to Torment: A Memoir of Ezra Pound – and oh, how beautifully she writes! You feel the heartbreak, the confusion, the passion of her relationship with Pound; it sears and puts a lump in your throat.

HD writes of her discovery of Pound’s previous loves as they walk through snowy Pennsylvania forests: “No need, then, to ask the question. First kisses? In the woods, in the winter – what did one expect? Not this. Electric, magnetic, they do not so much warm, they magnetize, vitalize. We need never go back. Lie down under the trees. Die here. We are past feeling cold; isn’t that the first symptom of rigor mortis?” Achingly beautiful. HD went on to have several other relationships, but nothing seems to have surpassed that first love of her youth.

Let me begin from the beginning, though. You probably know that I was set on my ‘Lost Generation’ trail by Tobias Wolff’s Old School. Hemingway followed, and some research uncovered a very important piece of information – F Scott Fitzgerald’s grave lies in the cemetery of St Mary’s Catholic Church in Rockville, Maryland, about an hour from where I live. Sunday before last, a sunny, blue-skied afternoon, we took the train to Rockville. In what at first sight seems to be the unlikeliest of places, next to a busy highway and within sight of utilitarian buildings, are buried Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. However, as I knelt beside the grave and heard the leaves rustle, I felt like he couldn’t have been buried in a more suitable place, in the serene family plot. I forgot that there were cars and trains passing by. I just saw his name etched on the tombstone and the spring flowers and thought back to his friends, to the larks they must be having, wherever they are. This place is as good as any other for his mortal remains. I left him a little love-note, but because I forgot to ask him to say hello to his friends for me, I think I should go back there some day. (I also thought guiltily of my half-finished copy of Tender is the Night back home – why is life so short?)

The Fitzgeralds

The Fitzgeralds’ grave at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Rockville, Maryland.

I was reading Sylvia Beach at the time of this visit, and had also borrowed a copy of Pound’s Literary Essays in preparation for my exploration of his enigmatic life. I am still to unravel the mystery of his Mussolini leanings and will leave out my half-baked opinions for now, but I must mention that, having now begun this book, I am quite prepared to separate the writer from the controversy-courter. His essays sparkle with clarity, and he does not seem disposed to misuse his powers as a critic. Sample this from the essay ‘The Prose Tradition in Verse’: “But it is the function of criticism to find what a given work is, rather than what it is not. It is also the faculty of a capital or of high civilization to value a man for some rare ability, to make use of him and not hinder him or itself by asking of him faculties which he does not possess.” For all his flamboyance and eccentricities, he was well-loved by the people he met and helped, and I am interested to learn how his anti-Semitic leanings took root and what led him on the dangerous path that led to twelve years of incarceration in a mental hospital. I hope to begin reading his poetry soon.

And not just Pound’s – Beach’s memoirs told me about a host of writers from the 1920s, and having received such a fitting introduction to them, I must naturally explore them further. The book is named after the American bookshop she set up in Paris. It spends a good deal of time on the long battle she undertook to have James Joyce’s Ulysses published (she cannot praise him enough and I feel like I might summon up enough courage soon to give it a try). She talks of the French poets and American expatriates who frequented her shop, including a number of lesbian writers such as Bryher and Djuna Barnes. She shares several photographs, among them a delightful one of George Antheil climbing up to his rooms above her shop, having forgotten his keys. She describes the fight to keep her bookshop afloat during the German occupation of Paris – and finishes up in a most memorable manner by talking of Hemingway’s ‘liberation’ of rue de l’Odéon, where it stood.

Beach also talks of George and Ira Gershwin, which prompted me to turn up at the Library of Congress on Saturday to see the Gershwin Room and marvel at their letters, scores and the splendid piano. In a strange coincidence, I’ve found out today that my local library in Virginia celebrates its 90th birthday in a couple of weeks, and has some Gershwin music on display along with books about the twenties in America. You see, the signs continue to manifest themselves. In obedience, I have a massive pile of books on my bedside table. I think I finally know what to do with my life.

PS. I write this on a stormy night, so help yourself to some of the atmosphere with Antheil’s Ballet Mécanique.


Hemingway of the Lost Generation

When I chanced upon Tobias Wolff’s Old School at the library, I had no idea that it was going to have a remarkable effect on my reading this year. Emerging from a fog of confused days and nights rolling into one another in the two darkest months of the year, I was more than prepared to be set down firmly on what promises to be a long, rewarding literary trail. I became enamoured of the Lost Generation in the way that I fell for Jack Kerouac, a famous thorn in tradition’s flesh, a few years ago.

I was intrigued when I read of the fascination for Hemingway – almost bordering on worship – among the boys in Wolff’s book, and the incredible manner in which it drove them to uncharacteristic behaviour. While Robert Frost and Ayn Rand, as visiting writers, spurred them on to an extent, the imminent arrival of Hemingway and the opportunity of winning an hour with him drew them out in a wholly different fashion. I knew little of Hemingway’s work or life when I read the book; apart from reading The Old Man and the Sea and the short story The Killers, I had never even attempted to read Hemingway. I put his books on my mental to-read lists, but never came around to actually buying or borrowing any. My interest was piqued by Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and I believe it brought me a step closer, but I give most credit to Wolff for making me pick up A Moveable Feast at the library (perhaps you shouldn’t start with the memoirs, but oh well) and I now want to read everything Hemingway ever wrote – even, perhaps, his work on hunting.

A Moveable Feast is very sincere in its tone. Hemingway talks of his life in Paris of the 1920s: his friendship with Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Beach, Ezra Pound and F Scott Fitzgerald, his devotion to his wife, Hadley, and his ambition to write and be influenced by all that was great and beautiful in the city. James Joyce, Ford Madox Ford and Baron von Blixen are briefly mentioned, as are the cafés , walks and bookshops he frequented; he describes ski holidays in Austria with Hadley and their son Bumby, and just as you begin to picture their bliss, he mentions his affair with another woman, which made the whole experience bittersweet for me. All the dissipation and abandon of Paris, then, had come to this and not to joyous, enduring years of writing and friendship. Disillusioning.

While I read, I didn’t realise that Hadley was the first of four wives, and that he had had to divorce her because of his affair with Pauline Pfeiffer, who eventually became his second wife. I don’t judge Hemingway, but I was saddened to learn that a love that he spoke so achingly and fondly of didn’t last. He rued it himself in very clear terms: “When I saw my wife again standing by the tracks as the train came in by the piled logs at the station, I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.” What was it that caused him to be so unhappy in his marriages, and to eventually take his own life? Why was marriage so important to him when he kept falling in and out of love so often – did it need that legal sanction that seemed to stifle him beyond a point?

Hemingway did come across as a very good friend, though. He seemed fiercely protective of Fitzgerald, and had no love lost for Zelda Fitzgerald, who he felt was driving her husband to drink and to lose interest in his work. He valued Pound’s opinions and respected Beach’s generosity and Stein’s authority. However, he did not exactly agree with the epithet of Lost Generation, a génération perdue, one that had served in the war and was now somehow given to dissolution: “I thought of Miss Stein and Sherwood Anderson and egotism and mental laziness versus discipline and I thought who is calling who a lost generation?…I thought that all generations were lost by something and always had been and always would be…”

I can only attempt to piece together from different sources this life that intrigues me so, and I think the best place to start would be from the books of this expatriate circle that thrived in Paris and lived a culturally rich, if troubled, life. I always thought Paris would be an interesting city to visit, but now I have a real reason to see it. Uncannily enough, the signs are right here in Washington, DC, where I’m spending a few months. Pound, the poet with the rakish reputation and questionable political views, spent several years in St Elizabeths Hospital in the city before he was released after frantic lobbying from friends and supporters. Fitzgerald and Zelda lie buried in a churchyard at Rockville, Maryland, about an hour’s train ride away. It also turns out that Fitzgerald was named after Francis Scott Key, a cousin on his father’s side and writer of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, who lived in the wonderfully quaint Georgetown area of DC. And finally, what to me is the most interesting connection – Hadley was educated at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, which receives support from the proceeds of my favourite used book-store in DC. I’ll take these signs with pleasure and use them as an excuse (not that I really need one) to delve further into Hemingway’s books. This circle attracts me in a way that, I regret to say, even the Bloomsbury Group didn’t: I might save that for my later, more mature years.

I’ll leave you now with a picturesque description of Paris and the seasons – Hemingway writing in his typical pared-down style – that rings true in all its glorious simplicity: “With the fishermen and the life on the river, the beautiful barges with their own life on board, the tugs with their smokestacks that folded back to pass under the bridges, pulling a tow of barges, the great elms on the stone banks of the river, the plane trees and in some places the poplars, I could never be lonely along the river. With so many trees in the city, you could see the spring coming each day until a night of warm wind would bring it suddenly in one morning. Sometimes the heavy cold rains would beat it back so that it would seem that it would never come and that you were losing a season out of your life. This was the only true sad time in Paris because it was unnatural. You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason.”

Winter Tales

A spell of winter worth its salt can teach you a lot. For one, it shows you what a good conductor of electricity the human body is: a lesson learnt by the frequent twitchy withdrawal of your hand from a surface as innocuous as a doorknob when you are jolted by a tiny spark of current, eventually leading to a fear of all things metallic. Winter also teaches you patience – through long cold nights, through eager days spent waiting for the snow to fall and then for it to melt.

To my unaccustomed eyes, the first blizzard I ever saw was a marvel. Even as I went about my chores, I kept hovering by the windows last Friday and Saturday to watch the snowflakes careening into one another and floating to the ground, piling up in thick sheets, burying cars and plants. How could there be so much snow? How could it fall for hours on end without a break, the wind growing stronger every hour? It started carpeting our balcony and we looked forward to building a snowman once the worst of the storm was past us. We couldn’t waste this opportunity though, so we wrapped up and went out on the road to feel the snow fall on our faces. I sank calf-deep into a powdery blanket of snow that I didn’t realise was as thick. A few hardy souls went running, loath to give up their exercise even in this unholy weather. Sadly, we weren’t among them: after a few minutes spent pretending that this was a post-apocalyptic world from Cormac McCarthy, we were driven back indoors by the gritty particles that rushed into our eyes and noses.

The snowstorm was exciting while it lasted, but I cannot deny the pleasure that waking up to blue skies gave me after the blizzard ended. The whole event could almost have been a dream – except, when I looked out from my window, the downy snow was beginning to be gathered up into blackened piles, much like the foam floating out of a few of Bangalore’s polluted lakes. This wasn’t a pretty sight.

However, being cooped up at home meant extra reading time. I read Edith Wharton’s Bunner Sisters and resumed The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which I’d somehow abandoned midway (I cannot imagine why). One thing led to another, and having finished the book last night, I’m prepared to pay Neil Gaiman the high honour of likening his writing to Ruskin Bond’s. Few people understand little boys and girls who spend their childhood with their noses buried in books and write about them so compellingly.

Though my bedside table was already tottering under the weight of unread books, I decided to take myself off to the library for a while. Clearly, I didn’t really need to borrow any more, but I also panic often about a certain mood seizing me and not having something to match it. I wanted the comfort of stacked bookshelves around me. I walked gingerly on the slippery pavements, the melting snow now running in rivulets down them. It wasn’t always unsightly though; it looked invitingly pristine under the trees, a ray of sunshine glinting off its surface through the branches. It reminded me of a certain RK Narayan sentence that I think of whenever I’m attracted by something shiny: “The morning sun came through a glass tile and touched with radiance the little heap of uppumav on his plate-a piece of green chilli and some globules of oil made the stuff sparkle, catching Jagan’s eye insistently for a moment, making him wonder if he had made some strange edible gem-set for his son rather than merely frying semolina and spicing it.” (This is an excerpt from The Vendor of Sweets.)

This little moment made up for the heaps of slushy snow piled up on the roads. I didn’t think of them as “sinister” at all, an adjective I’d used when describing how I felt about melting snow to a Canadian professor at university, leaving him bemused. That, and the red “Open” sign in the library window, took the edge off any vestiges of irritation that might have been simmering deep inside. That my favourite librarian wasn’t at the counter didn’t bother me. I returned my books to the fresh-faced young man who was there instead, and asked him where the graphic novels were.

“Traffic novels?”

Graphic novels.” (Gr-ah-phic. I wasn’t going to change the way I pronounced it.)

“Graphic novels. Oh. Okay. For…adults?”

He clearly likened graphic novels to something out of Vatsyayana.

“Yes.” The tetchiness was returning. But he didn’t ask for my ID and thankfully guided me to the right shelf, where I spent a leisurely ten minutes choosing two books, then went around the other shelves, hoping to be surprised. I agonised over Somerset Maugham and Tobias Wolff, picking the latter in the end. I set off homewards recharged, a filled backpack on my shoulders, the nippy wind nibbling at my nose and ears even as the sun began rapidly dipping into the horizon. I was at peace with the world. A cosy home, a bedside table stacked high with books, the prospect of hot chocolate with marshmallows and cookies to ease the march into February: what else can one ask for?

Places and People

The gorgeous sunsets are back. After a disillusioning, grey, warm Christmas which felt nothing like the ones we’d been promised by books and cinema, we are quite ready to embrace the cold weather. January has shaken up the errant seasons: a strong wind, which I’d like to pretend comes from the Arctic Circle, is swirling the dry leaves gathered on the concrete and making people bend over as they negotiate the rough terrain of the pavements. For a little while, I’m reminded of Brighton. Of course, staid Virginia has none of the eccentricity and colour of Brighton, nor the vicious and greedy seagulls, but being buffeted by the wind reminds me of walks on the chalk cliffs overlooking the sea. (Oh what a year it was!)

“Why would you want to go for a walk in this weather?” asks the lady at the reception, as I place my freezing hands on the counter. My face is numb as I struggle to reply. It will take a little bit of convincing for her to understand that this really is a pleasant change from the relentless heat of the tropics, from the oppressive weather of cities where heat and humidity accompany each other in unbroken circles year after year. She, on the other hand, longs for summer.

“I need a break,” I tell her. “I can’t stay in the apartment all day.”

“Read. Meditate. You can do those all day.”

My past experiences shape how I feel about the little pleasures I have discovered here. I have to tell her how alive I feel when I walk out into the cold, mild sunshine and the sight of human beings enlivening the senses. She probably doesn’t know what it is to discover that you can walk unmolested by leering eyes, that you can cross the road without having to put your hand out to a speeding car; she doesn’t feel the abandon of thumping on broad pavements where you don’t have to jostle with two-wheelers for space. Looking up from insignificant chores at four in the evening and staring into a light sky gives me an immense amount of pleasure: the kind that I discovered in Brighton four years ago. Winter, to me, isn’t the drop in temperatures; instead, it is the impenetrable dark, the setting of the sun at an ungodly hour. Shakespeare and Steinbeck didn’t talk of the winter of their characters’ discontent for nothing. And now, when I realise that it is twenty minutes to six and the clouds still haven’t merged into dark velvet, my spirit soars.


I got my third library card last Saturday. It is the most beautiful and inspiring card I have – it celebrates Martin Luther King Jr., an important commemoration in the times we live in. Reading about his work is on the agenda, but not right now. Unlike last time, when I tried to read mostly American fiction, I’m veering towards fiction that has been on my to-read list but inaccessible in India – Rumer Godden, for example.

The library itself is roomy and well-stocked, and in one hour there, I discovered enough to remind me, for the hundred thousandth time, of my remorse at the wastage of the infrastructure at the Anna Centenary Library. The DC Central Library encourages people to read, learn to code or to waltz; on the other hand, the library at home is mired in politics, and is about symbolising the victory of one political faction over another, without a thought for the value it can deliver to the people whose tax money must have been poured into the infrastructure.

As we finished our selection at the Popular Fiction section, the librarian asked me about my earrings – a pair of galloping horses. She was enamoured by how alive they seemed. It was a very brief conversation, but one that reminded me that librarians weren’t really frowning, mechanical people (I say this from a couple of experiences from school). In an alien country where we’d been disappointed by Christmas and the absolute desolation of the streets, the lights were being turned back on.

My usual walking route takes me past an ice skating rink and a huge Christmas tree, more bauble than wood or leaf. On a blustery evening like this, only the most hardy are out skating. The end of the vacation seems to have left many people listless and dispirited. The snowflakes on the trees and the lights strung up on balconies will come down shortly. However, in a perverse manner, I’m glad to see everyone coming back to work, to watch the streets fill up with cars again. The Christmas-jumpered librarians are back in their neutral blues and greys. Complaints about the freezing cold are getting louder. A happier winter, all hot chocolate and cosy reading, is on its way. All I’d like now is one night of snow, and my joy will be complete.

An Odd Hour of Bliss

I write for a living, but not dreamy, pretty, glorious things that remind you of tiny leaves rustling on a tar road in a vague breeze left over from summer. I don’t get to write about the black-and-white dog with the clipped tail that plays with an abandoned white canvas shoe in front of our gate, insistent on lying there even as we drive it out every time we have to bring the car in. My daily writing doesn’t allow me room for love-songs to the mountains I have seen only once and pine for, or let me weave horror stories populated by the lonely watchmen who stay up all night in tiny cabins, struggling against the cold and shadows. I can only admire, but not describe, the fragrance of damp earth float into my room as the rain begins to patter softly, then wrestle in vain against the frustration that comes from seeing the sun muscle its way back into prominence. There are everyday things passing me by, and I do nothing with them.

When you watch the woman in the pale pink chiffon saree walk home after a day’s hard work, don’t you want to know her story and write it down? When I see the light that occasionally shines from a usually abandoned room at the top of a building, I want to know the colour of its walls and the shape of the furniture inside. When I see the watchman in the house opposite unroll his mat, I want to ask how his newspapers suffice to fill up the day. This isn’t voyeuristic – this is just like wanting to peek at the cover of a book someone else on the train is reading. There are stories everywhere, and they are passing me by.

If you thought your time was money, you’d call me inane. We couldn’t be friends and you wouldn’t understand why I stare at the fronds of the palm tree every night, hoping to see the moon glimmer through them. You wouldn’t know why the picture of an old robot with its unseeing, metallic face makes my hair stand on end. You wouldn’t understand why my copy of Anne of Green Gables is in tatters and why I think seventeen is the most beautiful age to be. I want to complain about having passed the age where it is still reasonable to dream about grand things and hope that one day you will have seen the world from Tegucigalpa to Port Moresby – but not tonight, I can’t. Even though I don’t write about pretty things everyday, I feel them, and am happy to continue to do so, shushing the voice within that wants me to be practical.

In fact, I might be glad that I don’t write about pretty things for a living – because then, this odd hour of bliss when I can put words to nothingness would cease to be a treat.


One of the things I missed most while in the US was having a supermarket around the corner. Walking for twenty minutes each way just to buy a loaf of bread or a bag of raisin chocolates was never fun, because it wasn’t even a pleasant walk. You just crossed junction after junction, waiting impatiently for the pedestrian sign to come on, reading the names on the grey or brown buildings. This was nothing like walking through the South Downs, where you marvelled at the rolling hills that blended almost seamlessly with the horizon, or like the short trip to the local supermarket in India, where you were preoccupied with glaring at the motorists who dared to climb on to the pavement while riding in the wrong direction. And once in the store, you tried to figure out which Alka Yagnik song was playing in the background, because the shop assistants had this annoying habit of picking out the most obscure pieces from the 90s – which, despite my thorough exposure to Bollywood in 90s Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, I had no knowledge of.

Not having tasted butterscotch ice cream for three months – it seems surprisingly elusive outside India – I was determined to get some before the rain started. Yes, Bangalore. Chennai has rain in the evening too. I don’t know if this is a regular occurrence or a welcome-home present, but I am quite prepared to gloat over it while it lasts. If there is no electricity at your place and you are fanning yourself, staring bemusedly at your phone with the charge rapidly dwindling, know that I am sitting by an open window with the fragrance of damp earth floating in, mingling with incense and a negligibly faint chemical odour.

It is good to be back in India and not have to bemoan the absence of decent sambar powder at the lone Indian store. My trip was only three months long, and while I enjoyed being in the US, I must say very honestly that I liked living in England better. This probably has to do with the diet of English writing I grew up on, the constant exposure to cricket, and the fascination with the English “accent”. Would I have perceived the US differently had it been the first country I visited abroad, had I stayed in a part of the country with more access to nature, hills and the sea? Maybe. I feel a marked difference in the way I absorb things now than I did five years ago, probably because I pay more attention to politics than I used to. However, this is a subject that I will deal with separately, especially because of some important incidents that took place during my stay in the US.

Waiting for the bus that took us to the Indian store every week, I watched a building under construction grow rapidly. I felt the last vestiges of winter dissolve indiscernibly into summer, that much-beloved season of spring shying away from an appearance. I saw the parades of Memorial Day and the spectacular fireworks of the Fourth of July, with the red eyes of the Washington Monument glowing in the dusk. I learnt to admire Thomas Jefferson and question the naming of highways after Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, both heroes of the Confederate side in the Civil War.

I haven’t even scratched the surface of the vast, complex country that the US is, despite its relatively recent origins. Conversations with Americans and immigrants take you deeper into the mystery, instead of clearing your doubts. Race, religion, colour, and political affiliation are not always postcolonial preoccupations. The pursuit of self-serving interests and the presumptuousness of politicians don’t necessarily help matters. Make no mistake, I appreciated free access to the library and the Smithsonian museums, the clean roads, and the convenient public transport. However, in my view, the US is far from being that perfect home many people seem to aspire towards. In terms of long-term opportunities and the chance to make a visible difference, India is not a less exciting place to be in. What it lacks is discipline, and this is the thing that drives so many of us away.

The Suburbs

I take myself off to the library earlier than I wanted to because the Met department has issued a thunderstorm warning, and it usually doesn’t go wrong. It isn’t that the four o’clock sunshine will be mild and forgiving, but it does feel more benevolent than the heat at half-past two. As expected, when I step out from the air-conditioned confines of the apartment, I walk into a wall of heat. However, a rustling, redeeming breeze rushes in to mediate, and I make peace with the weather while I turn the neat corners and stop at traffic signals. It is a blessing not to have to compete with motorbikes and scooters for room on the pavement.

I am determined to deposit my books at the counter of my local library and return home without a look at the shelves. My bedside table already has two delectably thick, hardbound books to be read: Elizabeth Pisani’s ‘Indonesia, Etc.’ and Louise Erdrich’s ‘The Painted Drum’. The first one is supposed to give me a glimpse of the country I last visited and adored, while educating me on its history and politics. I picked up the second to indulge my fascination for Native American culture and traditions, of which I am shamefully ignorant. We never learnt Native American history at school; in fact, the gist of what we were taught is that Columbus sailed to the continent and mistook the inhabitants for Asian Indians. We were never taught much about the brutal colonisation of other territories – which, I would think, was important for a country that had itself been victim to imperialist ambitions.


This street looks like a scene right out of Revolutionary Road. Neat houses with trim gardens line the road, and it isn’t difficult to take a trip back to the USA of the 1950s and imagine suburban fancies creating themselves, while also imploding. On a still afternoon like this, I can see a housewife doing the laundry and cooking for her family, having reached a stage beyond the anguish that stems from the rejection of carefully nurtured dreams. She walks around in her printed dress, ennui enveloping her features, movements mechanical and strained. She could be Richard Yates’ heroine, or Sinclair Lewis’. However, this is a theme that fascinates more than oppresses me – probably the reason why I am setting out on an American literature spree again.

Blame it, then, on the flag-draped porch banisters and the incongruous fire station in the middle of a very suburban street, where firemen practise their routines in a languid manner. I wend through the shelves in the library to the section marked ‘S’ and pick up The Winter of Our Discontent. I keep waiting for the right moment to go back to John Steinbeck, and today this model street of low houses and parked cars has inspired me to do so. This isn’t schadenfreude, but an attempt to understand that mysterious phenomenon of middle age that is slowly going to creep up on me, on the people I grew up with, when the vivacious dreams of adolescence will be laughed at and stowed away, only to be taken out stealthily on rare occasions. I don’t even know if it is fair to associate suburban America with the purported security and stability that middle age and twenty years of work bring. However, I sense that it is only the object of ambition that must have changed – become bigger, costlier, and shinier than it used to be – and that the story of the pursuit for it remains the same. Twentieth century, twenty-first century, it really doesn’t matter.

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