Would you like to swing on a star . . . carry moonbeams home in a jar . . . and be better off than you are . . .

Or would you like to be a fish?

(thanks for the artwork, 1990's Chelsea!)

A fish can't do anything but swim in a brook,
He can't write his name or read a book.
To fool the people is his only thought
And even though he's slippery
He still gets caught!
But then if that sort of life is what you wish,
You may grow up to be a fish!

I do, unfortunately, spend a lot of time wishing I were someone else somewhere else doing something else. It's a character flaw. There are a variety of reasons for this, none of them related to my life being unhappy (which it definitely isn't). More likely it is related to things like post-adolescent acne (which is out of control), MN weather (which has been beautiful lately but often isn't) and an insurmountable to-do list (which I always seem to have). I have never, however, specifically day-dreamed of being a fish. I've just always liked that song.

I have, I must admit (and who hasn't), daydreamed of being Nancy Drew.

That's what I do when I get a little too stressed -- I read Nancy Drew books. I just bought 5 I've never owned from Amazon rare books, and I'm a little disappointed because although they said the books were copyright mid-1950's, they were actually the 1970's re-dos, which are not nearly as good. I don't know why reading Nancy Drew books is comforting to me, but I have loved them ever since I started borrowing them (as many as I could without being a pest) from my neighbor Ann's older sister (sorry -- seems some of mine still say Marybeth on the inside cover . . . would you like them back?) That must have been sometime in the early 1970's. I read as many as my neighbors owned, then I bought as many as I could earn the money for myself. In the 1990's, I read my complete collection (it is quite large -- stolen or purchased as a child, and collected as an adult) to my two younger daughters, who loved them as well.

Last year I re-read them all (getting ready for a wedding and art shows definitely calls for Nancy!) and now I'm skulking around used-book websites trying to buy some anti-stress tonic in the form of previously un-read Nancy Drew.

I have some from the original series, the 1930's editions.

I love these best because the descriptions of the clothing, the social life, and the manners exhibited are just a marvelous study in a bygone era. Wonderful college weekends at Emerson, debutante balls, amateur theatric productions . . .

And 1930's Nancy was truly blazing a trail -- a respected amateur sleuth traveling the countryside in her convertible when all the other girls her age were getting married to their high school sweethearts.

1950's Nancy Drews are the next best thing -- still quaint but peppered with all kinds of 1950's "hip" language and even more girl-power.

Nancy strings Ned Nickerson along with ease and charm; he is always waiting in the wings to save the day. He respects Nancy even though he secretly wishes she would settle down and marry him, I'm sure. Athletic George and pleasingly plump Bess are a wonderful foil for Nancy's intelligence and thirst for adventure. One sometimes wonders what George and Bess would do if they weren't gallivanting around the globe with their friend.

In the 1970's they rewrote the original stories and updated them -- tragic but some of them are still acceptable.

Nancy's hair got longer and was no longer described as "titian," I guess because 1970's girls wouldn't have the slightest idea what "titian" was. Bess was still overweight, but the 1970's books were more likely to make her feel bad about it -- the "pleasingly" was dropped from the "plump".

Now that I've thought about it a little, here are my reasons Nancy Drew relieves stress:

1) Things always turn out in the end. There is no mystery too great, no situation too dire, no villain too sinister for Nancy's remarkable pluck and insatiable curiosity to overcome. Even when death and destruction seem imminent, rescue is sure and just a page away.

2) Nancy has an unlimited supply of resources. Her charge accounts are never-ending, her convertible is always the latest model, full of gas and ready to road-trip, her friends are bountiful and devoted.

3) In addition to being smart and brave, Nancy is fantastically beautiful. And worst of all, she's the kind of beautiful person you just can't hate because she's so gosh-darn nice.

4) Having Carson Drew for a father is like having a get-out-of-jail-free card at her immediate disposal no matter where she goes. Just mention the name Carson Drew and watch the doors open.

5) The police are always willing to drop whatever else they are working on and spring to Nancy's aid in any way she may request (this is because of her amazing reputation as a successful amateur sleuth, which they have tremendous respect for).

6) Athletic George (with her short haircut!) and pleasingly-plump Bess both not only have favorite boyfriends, but are also always able to find dates wherever the girls go. Of course Nancy gets first-pick of the boys, but everyone has a happy and willing dance partner. And Nancy never worries about offending Ned because she knows he will forever wait for her.

7) Handsome boys always come in threes.

8) Although Nancy's mother died tragically when Nancy was 3, kindly Hannah Gruen is everything a girl could ask for in a mother hen. She is just as comfortable fighting off an intruder with a lamp or her handbag as she is baking a scratch lemon meringue pie on a moment's notice for Nancy and her friends. Every home should come equipped with a Hannah Gruen.

9) Nancy is truly at home in the world. She'll travel anywhere, talk to anyone, try anything, and everywhere she goes there is a new friend and a new adventure waiting to greet her.

So I guess it's no wonder I still like to read Nancy Drew. And since it's fall (getting dark) and Christmas is closing in (Chicago show) and then it will be February before I blink (Baltimore) it's no wonder I'm trolling the used-book waters to see if I can get some additional fortification. Now if I could just get a piece
of Hannah's lemon-meringue pie . . .


Jake and Chelsea said...

and in the early editions, there is no mention of her race, but it is safe to assume that she is African-American...then in that picture of her, she looks just like Nancy...why can't things stay their same old politically incorrect selves?

susan m hinckley said...

I'm assuming that you are referring to Hannah Gruen -- I must agree that the picture I posted of Hannah is most disappointing because she looks nothing like I would ever imagine. Just another thing they obviously ruined when they rewrote the books!

april said...

confession: i've never read nancy drew. my sister devoured my stepmother's collection from the 1950s. you make me want to read them. oh, and i love the pics from the 1930s edition.

susan m hinckley said...

April -- Good news! Nancy Drew is always ready and waiting to be discovered. Gracie will be just about ready to read them with you. And even more good news: Remington Steele left MN today on his way to CT. Have fun!

Pam said...

Enjoyed this post Susan. I was unaware of these books and will keep a look-out now as I'm a dedicated book fossicker.I'm a Lucy Fitch Perkins fan myself - her series of began in 1922" ie "The Cave Twins" "The Dutch Twins" "The Irish Twins" "The Eskimo Twins" etc etc. Love them!Like you, I enjoy the style from days long gone.

susan m hinckley said...

Now I have some research to do as I have never heard of Lucy Fitch Perkins. Goody -- something new!

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