Jean Kerr Elizabeth Janeway - Essay

Elizabeth Janeway

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

You know the conformity of life in the suburbs that we keep hearing about all the time? I have a suggestion. The Kerr family (who have so far confined themselves to the outskirts of Washington and the inskirts of Westchester) should be stationed for a certain period in whatever other suburban area has been adjudged temporarily the stuffiest. On the basis of their normal activities, as set down [in "Please Don't Eat the Daisies"] by Jean, devoted wife of Walter and wary mother of Christopher, Colin, Johnny, and Gilbert, a short stay should prove a universal Kerrective….

Holed up in the quiet comfort of the Chevrolet, Mrs. Kerr has produced some of the most knowledgeable essays on the Boy Mind ever to see the light of day. Any parent who has fought through the Great Sweater Issue ("Do I have to wear it? It's not cold.") on a brisk November morning will appreciate her grasp of child-semantics. But there are tidbits here for others, too: that famous Pseudo-Sagan, for instance, whose heroine combs her curls with a nail file and deserts her lover, Banal, for his grandfather; and a lesser known but just as funny reproduction of a dramatic reading from the works of Mickey Spillance.

In fact, quite simply (as Miss Sagan might say), this is a very funny book by a woman with a wonderful eye and ear for those moments of lunacy in which every normal life abounds. If we can't persuade her to shuffle off to Darien, Montclair or Valley Stream, at least the citizens of those unblessed towns can read the book.

Elizabeth Janeway, "A Family Has Fun," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1957 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 24, 1957, p. 26.