|I Remember Grace Metalious
By Lynne Snierson
While covering sports all
over the country for many years, people I encountered were amazed to meet
someone reared in the small state of New Hampshire. They were positively
fascinated to discover I had also grown up around the larger-than-life
The woman who wrote Peyton
Place back in the 1950s on a manual typewriter, perched on her dining room
table in Gilmanton, was the friend and client of my father, the late Judge
Bernard Snierson of Laconia. Grace and my dad were so close that even though
she predeceased him by some 25 years, the Associated Press and USA Today
identified him in the lead sentence of his obituary as her attorney, when
he died in 1988.
Right up until his own death
my dad was queried by prominent journalists, distinguished scholars and
everyday people about Grace, who also wrote three other novels, and who
saw her work published world-wide and made into Hollywood movies and a
network TV series.
They certainly had asked
the right person. My dad wasn't just her lawyer, he was her advisor, confidant,
and true friend. His genuine affection, care, and concern for her was considerable.
He understood her complexities, and greatly admired her as a writer and
as a human being.
Grace died at the age of
39 in 1963 when I was just 11. Grace drank herself to death. She once told
my dad, "I looked into that empty bottle and I saw myself." While the world
remembers Grace for her enormous talent, I remember her for the joy she
Grace assuredly sparked this
little girl's life just as brightly as the lights on the marquee of the
old Colonial Theater on the night "Return to Peyton Place" premiered in
At first, I was crazy about
Grace because my dad was, and he was my idol, hero, role model, and absolute
favorite person in the world (he still is...). Then, I grew to love Grace
for herself, and she became a hero and role model in her own right.
Grace visited often, and
I was accustomed to the lilt of her laughter around my house, as well as
to giving up my room when she'd had a few too many. But it was my sleep-overs
at her house that were really something.
With the three Metalious
kids - Marsha, George, and Cindy - and Grace's favorite niece Suzy about,
there was always somebody fun to play with. And there were all kinds of
unusual amusements, including a live alligator kept in a special room under
simulated tropical conditions.
Obviously, Grace's house
wasn't like anyone else's. It was a place of wonder and fascination, with
all sorts of interesting people coming and going and lending their energy.
Grace had a very beautiful and special spirit, and as it was unbridled,
it filled her home and surrounded her like an aura.
She was gregarious, and was
she ever generous. She had grown up as Grace DeRepitigny in poverty in
Manchester, and she loved sharing the luxuries she earned. Too many people
took terrible advantage of her kindness as they depleted her resources,
but I can still see the happiness in her smiling eyes when she gave someone
One of the beneficiaries
was me. Since my family is Jewish, Grace included me in her family's celebrations
of the Christian holidays. Live bunnies or a puppy were my gifts at Easter,
although my parents insisted they be returned. Fortunately, I was allowed
to keep the beautiful Madame Alexander dolls Grace presented to me at Christmas.
But the best gift she ever
gave me was her example.
Grace was bright and free-spirited.
She was her own woman when it was not only unpopular, but unheard of. She
allowed no one to hold her down, and she never let her lack of a college
education keep her from writing one of the most critically and publicly
acclaimed American novels.
Moreover, she wrote with
a real woman's voice. The women in her books had shape, substance and soul.
They swore, they had sex (and they enjoyed it, too). They were three-dimensional
- very unlike the way women were supposed to be portrayed in the '50s.
Grace could really tell a tale. With Peyton Place, she rocked the literary
world, and most of Belknap County. It sold more copies than any novel in
American history prior to 1960.
Because women weren't supposed
to write so-called dirty books back then, Grace took a lot of heat. The
criticism of false friends and neighbors hurt her deeply. Since Peyton
Place was so exquisitely crafted, some even raised questions as to the
authenticity of her work.
My dad told me he once left
Grace alone in his law library with nothing but a typewriter and a ream
of paper, and asked her to write something. Attired in her trademark flannel
shirt and jeans, she banged out a short piece with her characteristic fine
style. When he read it, Dad knew she alone wrote Peyton Place.
My dad stood up to her detractors
and stood by her through all the joys and heartaches, the marriages and
divorces, and the triumphs and the tragedies. Grace's life was short, but
she lived it, and wrote about it, with great passion.
Grace was an extraordinary
woman and a celebrity of global proportions. She is recognized today as
America's first feminist author. Her work is taught in literature courses
all over the world.
I know Grace would be so
proud, and I think pleased, that I grew up to be a writer instead of a
Story by Lynne Snierson, a Laconia,
native who has traveled the country as an award-winning sports writer and
television commentator. She is now director of marketing and public relations
for Rockingham Park race track, Salem.
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