She will say, gives you wings, amuses you to tears, and soothes you like a honeycomb. We will find in it a sentiment for the good old times and words of comfort for the present, endearing goodness and timeless wisdom. Life is beautiful, don’t waste it on sorrows – the author seems to advise. Because it’s never too late for happiness and love knows no age! The Silver Generation can read almost its manifesto in this novel, but the magic of Fannie Flagg’s work goes beyond all generational categories. This is a lesson for many generations, a boost of vitality, a generous dose of endorphins.
Fragment of the novel:
Brenda couldn’t understand where Maggie’s calm, poise, and cool-headedness came from – but as far as Maggie was concerned, many things were beyond Brenda’s mind. Despite the ubiquitous irritability and ferocity in the industry, Maggie never got nervous and never said a bad word about anyone. Brenda guessed that it was easier for someone like her not to worry about anything – what for? She was tall and slim and beautiful; she had lovely teeth and thick, straight hair that looked divine even when tied in a ponytail. In addition, she had no relatives who would bother her day and night. And Brenda? A crowd of brothers, sisters, nephews and nephews of both genders were constantly clamoring for money for all that crap, which meant she couldn’t save even ten cents, let alone buy that fifty-inch HDTV that caught her eye at Costco. Sometimes she wanted to laugh at the mere thought of Maggie – always well-dressed, perfectly groomed, nice and likeable, flowing through life on a pink cloud. Maggie had no idea how lucky she was, and she wouldn’t understand it even if someone tried to explain it to her. She had the world in her hand. And Brenda could only wish she was like her.
After talking to Brenda, Maggie took the proofreader bottle from the drawer, changed the date on the paper to November 3rd, then went back to writing the letter:
… that although I had been going around for a long time,
I was always proud to be from Alabama, and I felt
I was honored that I was given the opportunity to represent my state
in the Miss America contest.
Margaret Anne Fortenberry
She usually put a smiley face on her signature, but this time it seemed inappropriate, so she didn’t draw anything. She scanned the text for errors; after all, it is not known who it will eventually end up with. After reading the letter a few more times, she found that she was as clear as she wanted. She gave some explanations, but without going overboard; she wasn’t going to be mysterious, but in this situation some understatement was necessary. She regretted that the letter had to be so impersonal and vague, but she could not address it to Brenda and Ethel and forbid them to open it before the due date, because they would become suspicious. Besides, Brenda would definitely open it up. After all, her sister Robbie said that last year Brenda opened up all her Christmas presents without giving her a chance to wrap them up! Plus, Maggie knew well that if they somehow found out what they were up to, they would try to talk her out of it – which would be nice of them, of course, but it is often the case that best-intentioned friends keep people from doing what they want to do. in fact, it would be best for them.
She was not entirely satisfied with all the phrases used in the letter, but she had the impression that the general message was clear: “I’m leaving. I have my reasons. Don’t look for me. ”But she wasn’t stupid – she realized that no matter how she tried to make it easier for them to break up, some would still be shocked. They would start to wonder: But why? She seemed so happy.
Indeed, she always tried to appear happy. Someone else might ask, Why? After all, she could have any guy in the world. It wasn’t entirely true, and besides, she didn’t want anyone else after Richard. Or: Why? She was so pretty after all. Without a doubt, beauty, as long as it lasts, is a wonderful gift, but it does not bring happiness; It brings a lot of small benefits, by all means, but in itself is not a sufficient reason to keep fighting. Some will be disappointed that she did not go into detail about her decision, but most importantly, she really did. As recently as a week ago, she wrote down all sixteen excellent arguments for, and deep down she was convinced that there were still plenty of them that momentarily do not come to her mind.
She hated the thought of leaving them with nothing – but what was she going to tell them? It’s not the truth. Therefore, it was best to bow gracefully and enjoy the fact that she managed to achieve at least some of the set goals. She has never smoked, cursed, raised her voice in public, or received a ticket for even the smallest traffic violation (not just any achievement, considering that so far, after years of trying, she has never learned to park in parallel). But why would she go on trying, now, at sixty, when she was too young to retire and not bright enough to retrain? She had already had the best of her life behind her, no doubt about it. Why struggle? What to strive for?
After Hazel left, life had become as difficult for her as if she were standing on one foot on a huge rubber ball, simultaneously juggling six hoops and balancing with a stick vertically on her nose. Sometimes she was tempted to go berserk, strip naked and run down the street, tearing as hard as she could in her lungs – but of course she couldn’t do that. Not in a time when every passerby had a phone camera. Someone would definitely record a video and upload it to YouTube, and such a thing can then stay on the Internet for years.
Brenda was lucky. She still had something to fight for. Oh, even last week, she announced that she would run for mayor of Birmingham, and after winning, she would replace the entire city council. She had ambition and a caring family. Even Ethel Clipp, who was rumored to have had at least eight dozen (although no one knew for sure), had her own bell band and two white Persians, Eva and Zsa Zsa, whom she adored. No, really: Maggie should step back into the shadows and let them keep walking merrily forward.
She was just going to leave a little earlier than everyone expected, quietly, discreetly, without fanfare or applause. On her part, there were evasions from life (perhaps), the inability to face reality (no doubt), a pre-emptive attack against old age (most certainly), but also positives: by leaving now, it will save the government substantial social spending in the long run; will leave a smaller carbon footprint; it will use less oxygen, gasoline, water, food, plastic and paper; throws fewer ground coffee filters into the garbage. Al Gore would definitely appreciate it.
She put the letter in an envelope and tucked it in a drawer, on the bottom, under a pile of old phone invoices that reminded her that she should make sure all her bills are paid and her credit cards settled. She didn’t want to give anyone an excuse to claim that the former Miss Alabama was defaulting on her debts. She sat up and looked around the room. The furniture didn’t belong to her, and she had literally a handful of personal trinkets that she still had to get rid of. That’s all.
My God … Thinking about how she started, what ambitions she had, and what she really did with her life, she couldn’t shake off her amazement. There was no doubt that she had seen way too many films as a child and had unnecessarily expected a happy ending.
Excerpt from Fannie Flagg’s “I Still Dream of You” novel. Trans. Wojciech Szypuła. Literary Publishing House 2022