When your best friend texts to tell you that Emma Morano, at 117 years old the eldest person in the world, has died and all you can think is Beverly Cleary, the 102-year-old author of all those Beezus and Ramona and Henry and Ribsy books you read as a child and now read to your children—how they were written in the span of 50 years from 1950-1999, long enough to see perhaps the period of greatest cultural tectonic shift in human history, only the world of Klickitat Street never changes, or only slightly, enough to see two girls age five years over the fifty between Henry Huggins’s publication in 1950 and Ramona’s World in 1999; how you can feel the nostalgic pull toward an imaginary 1950’s that led 26% of voting-age Americans to vote for Donald Trump last year in the hopes of bringing back salt-of-the-earth jobs that no longer exist and probably shouldn’t; how Henry’s industrious schemes to save $59.95 for a bike by selling boxes of bubblegum and preying on traditional female gender roles to resell a coupon for beauty treatment to Beezus speak to the “innocent Fifties” mentality Joan Didion documented while observing a Jaycees convention in 1970: “There was the belief in business success as a transcendent ideal. There was the faith that if one transforms oneself from an ‘introvert’ to an ‘extrovert,’ if one learns to ‘speak effectively’ and ‘do a job,’ success and its concomitant, spiritual grace, follow naturally." But: “There was…a kind of poignant attempt to circumnavigate social conventions that had in fact broken down in the Twenties…the voice of all those who have felt themselves not merely shocked but personally betrayed by recent history. It was supposed to be their time. It was not.”  Only the spirit-ghost of that mythological time seems to keep returning every thirty years—the pre-crash Twenties, the pre-upheaval Fifties, the pre-internet Eighties, now the Teens which, according to self-perpetuating American mythology, promise to be remembered as another golden age of adolescent self-delusion, one that, like the corporations that create and promulgate this cycle, will far outlive Emma Morano, or Beverly Cleary, or you.

What are the Sneaky Feels?

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AuthorJohn Proctor