Advertisement

NONFICTION

DREAM HOUSE: A Memoir by Charlotte Nekola (Norton: $18.95; 175 pp.). Writer Charlotte Nekola’s balanced and exquisite vision of domestic life in 1950s America evokes both the halcyon memories of “Leave It to Beaver” and the dark anxieties of David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet.” “This was a place of innocence,” Nekola writes of her childhood home, “where expectations seemed always fulfilled. Of course, this was because the expectations were so limited.” Nekola, an English professor at William Paterson College, conveys the soothing feeling of watching her efficient Aunt Grace clean jelly stains from the tablecloth. Boiling up a pot of water with a sense of urgency, “she tucked an empty pot underneath the lace cloth, and then poured boiling water from a height of three feet through the tablecloth. It was thought that the higher the fall of the water, the more effective it was.” At the same time, Nekola, acknowledging the loneliness and sexism of the era, points out that these chores provided only ephemeral solace: “None of this holding on, my grandmother slapping down the iron on Uncle Ed’s shirt, guarantees anything at all.”


Advertisement