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The Snake Has All the Lines

by Jean Kerr

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I found this book in my dentist's office, where they keep a bookcase full of books that patients can take or contribute to. Sort of like a Little Library. I picked this one up for two reasons: its 35 cent cover price--old paperbacks fascinate me, and its author, who wrote "Please Don't Eat the Daisies." I remember this as a move and TV show from my very early childhood, although I'm not sure I ever saw either. Nor did I read the collection of pieces of the same name that inspired them.

In any case, this is a short book--only 128 pages--and that includes quite a few illustrations. Kerr is easy to read, but as tends to be the case with collections like this, whose pieces were originally published in popular magazines of the time, it is all very dated and the cultural references (people, events, brand names, etc.) may be unrecognizable by most readers much younger than me. In fact, this book is best treated as a time machine to America, circa 1960.

Kerr, a successful playwright married to a well-known drama critic, writes primarily about her domestic life, which focuses on raising her five(!!) children and doing all the other things, such as planning parties, that were expected of a traditional wife of that time. Of course, these pieces are intended to be humorous (they ARE humorous, I should say), so they can't be taken literally. Kerr certainly had domestic help, otherwise she could have never found the time to write so much, take part in the out of town openings of her plays, and do all the other things necessary to be a successful author. Writing is the other main subject of the book. Kerr offers pointed, humorous advice for dealing with bad reviews, for example.

Throughout, her tone is lively, and she tries to pack a bit of a laugh or some sort of twist into almost every sentence. I'm sure she was an inspiration to writers such as Erma Bombeck. I enjoyed this book for taking me back to a time that, on the surface at least, was simpler and more innocent. I can't really recommend that a modern reader pick it up, however, unless you like the time travel angle I suggested or have a taste for ephemera. ( )
  datrappert | Dec 5, 2017 |
Kerr has collected a series of columns written in 1958, '59, and '60 for various magazines such as Ladies Home Journal and McCall's. Her writing is humorous and deals with subjects of motherhood, being a playwright and consumerism.
Although I was not able to comprehend a lot of her pop culture references, I found this book entertaining and, for the most part, surprisingly relevant. ( )
  EmScape | Jul 31, 2009 |
A collection of humorous pieces on life in the suburbs in the 1950s. Jean Kerr, married to drama critic Walter Kerr, writes about her kids, her mother, her adventures as a playwright, and the ten worst things about a man. (#5. A man will give you an honest answer.)

I've loved Jean's writing since high school. This was a real find. ( )
  MerryMary | Jul 17, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jean Kerrprimary authorall editionscalculated
Darrow, Jr WhitneyIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Tom and Kitty--with love
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I make mistakes; I'll be the second to admit it.
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