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Wasn't the Grass Greener?: A Curmudgeon's Fond Memories Hardcover – June 2, 1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Every silver lining has its cloud... Does running five miles a day prevent or cause heart attacks, and what are the odds of getting hit by a car, and will its driver be saved or killed by the air bag?" In this pointed but lighthearted series of ruminations on the downside of progress, Holland elaborates on the theme she explored in her previous collection, Endangered Pleasures. In 33 brief essays, she nostalgically ponders such extinct pleasures as sitting on the front porchAa practice that has gradually disappered because of indoor air-conditioningAwhich served not only as a way to cool off, but also as a way for lovers to meet or for neighbors to enjoy communal gossip. Holland has fond memories of New York City as a mecca for sin and sophistication and laments the efforts by the current mayor to launder the city into a theme park that's almost as boring as the suburbs. A major culprit in these modern changes are new worries: Holland points out that dire fears of hunger or dying in wartime have given way, in today's relatively secure United States, to an obsessive concern with personal health and safety. Her ruminations on such topics as the loss of leisure time in today's overscheduled childhoods or the decline of the neighborhood tavern as a congenial gathering place will delight fans, as well as those who share the author's reminiscences.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In short essays reminiscent of Bailey White's, Holland (Bingo Night at the Fire Hall: The Case for Cows, Orchards, Bake Sales & Fairs, LJ 8/97) considers what modern society has bulldozed along its path to progress. Things like porches, which are definitely not the same as decksAfront porches make socializing with neighbors possible, and sometimes even necessary, while decks grace the back of the house and protect privacy. Things like poetry, which somehow lost the common touch when rhyme went out of style. Or heroes: Holland suggests the possibility of replacing real and therefore fallible ones with an interactive "virtual hero" whose visage will adjust constantly to the vagaries of online opinion polls. The essays are both humorous and serious. Holland does not so much advocate a return to the "good old days" as take a good look at where we are now and seriously contemplate whether or not we truly want to be there. Recommended for all public libraries.AKatherine K. Koenig, Ellis Sch., Pittsburgh
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (June 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151004420
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151004423
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,711,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark Blackburn on June 13, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As an aging rock star named "Bruce" once sang (famously in his ode to a "Pink Cadillac") -- "Love is bigger than a Honda . . . it's bigger than a Subaru." How much bigger is captured perfectly by Barbara Holland. (Please see end of this review.) Ms Holland is miles ahead of anyone else in reminding us what "true love" once meant.

This book, "Wasn't the Grass Greener? - 33 reasons why life isn't as good as it used to be," provides (I believe) the finest essay ever written on the subject of "Falling in Love." Deservedly, it is twice the length of any other chapter here (14 pages) -- and parked, like a stretch limo, between a little Subaru-of-a-chapter called "Radiators" and a sort of `Civic' titled "Election Night."

Honestly, I can't remember the last time I read a book of essays where each is funnier (and simultaneously more poignant) than the last. My favorites so far (I'm only midway through the book!) include "Suntans," "Old Things," and "Clotheslines." The latter two, read aloud to my wife, left me laughing and crying simultaneously.

After scanning the contents page, I opened the book to "Suntans" (I'm trying to get one, for the same reasons Barbara sings their praises,) Then, I skipped ahead to "Taverns," "Pianos," "Poetry," and "Porches" (not the car -- the house feature that Barbara's grandmother's Washington home had three of).

Moments ago, I read "Falling in Love" -- and I simply couldn't wait to finish the book before writing a review. I believe if Mark Twain were still with us, he would declare Barbara Holland his favorite writer - and agree she is the best "iconoclastic essayist" of the last hundred years.

As an incentive . . .
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Format: Hardcover
Surely Barbara Holland is a national treasure. WASN'T THE GRASS GREENER?, subtitled "A Curmudgeon's Fond Memories", is a marvelous collection of essays on subjects ranging from Doctors to Poetry to Radiators and thirty others of varying stripes, all encased in a book bright with wisdom, wryness, nostalgia, irony - gentle and not-so - and an enchanting sense of humor. For the last mentioned, see "Art" and "Sneakers" for starters. Surely neither of these subjects, disparate as they are, will ever be the same again. I've been a Holland fan for years and never has her intelligence and style been more in evidence than in this truly stunning collection.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
How can a curmudgeon be so much fun? A female Mark Twain for modern times. If you think you have a complaint, then you better get this book. The great thing about Barbara Holland is you can read several of her books at the same time to vary the essay and never miss a beat. I am currently reading through 3. Good way to relax at night before bed and get in a better humor especially after a stressful day. And doesn't your memory always remember how much better things were, when in reality they really were not? Just ask Barbara....
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WASN'T THE GRASS GREENER? by Barbara Holland is a ruefully nostalgic lament on the passing of things, activities, and states of mind that older generations grew up with during a period that can now perhaps be perceived as a simpler time: things such as pianos, liquor cabinets, sneakers, porches, desks (as opposed to computer stations), clotheslines, windows (that actually open), radiators, grand urban department stores, playing cards, and telegrams; activities such as ice-skating, election night, idleness, pranks, picnics, and star-gazing; and states of mind such as childhood, worries, and falling in love.

I can't find a birth date for the author on the Internet. At 57, I suspect I'm 10-15 years younger than she. Certainly anyone younger than, say, 45, won't find this book relevant and may wonder what Barbara is grumbling about.

The volume itself, published in 1999, is dated, as revealed in the chapter entitled "War", in which Holland misses the good vs. evil simplicity of the Second World War and, to a lesser degree, the Cold War. According to her, what with the demise of the Evil Empire, there's nothing to provide a rousing martial diversion other than a spirited soccer match or grueling computer game. One wonders what she thinks post-9/11 about the current us vs. them confrontation likely to last decades, i.e. Western culture vs. the kamikaze acolytes of jihadist mullahs. It doesn't have the drama of D-Day, but it's all we've got, and could conceivably result in the nuclear holocaust avoided with the Soviets.
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This review is for: Wasn't the Grass Greener?: Thirty-three Reasons Why Life Isn't as Good as It Used to Be ) by Barbara Holland

I read my (signed/autographed) copy of "One's Company" in 1992 and loved it, so recently I thought I'd try this one from 1999, a first edition that sat on my shelf for a very long time. I was not disappointed.

Barbara Holland's DNA is inside all the writing found here. The words are from her body's sinews as well as from her mind. You learn about the woman's personal life, her mother, her siblings, and her past as you take in a sociological analysis of life in America from the time of the Depression to the modern era with its computers, air-conditioning, and "hook-ups."

Her survey of America's sociological decline is done conversationally and through specific subjects such as desks or suntans or pianos or porches. These objects seem inconsequential, but Barbara Holland is able to see, like Blake, a world in a grain of sand.

I agree with other Amazon reviewers that a most amazing essay is "Falling In Love."

There are others that make a great second-place to it: "Desks," "Doctors," "Department Stores," "Homogeneity," "Psychiatry," "Poetry," "Porches" and "Taverns."

For me, Barbara Holland really does answer the question the title of the book poses -- in the affirmative -- with every essay, and the reader will not only agree but feel the reasons why as well.

The reason I gave the book four stars instead of five is somewhat selfish.
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