No Trouble in Bubbleland

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

Here’s a writer you’ll not only probably enjoy but who will make you feel a little bit better.

I learned of R. Eric Thomas through our mutual friend (just kidding) Ann Patchett, the novelist, who featured his new book in a little promotion for her Nashville bookstore, Parnassus Books. I requested Congratulations! The Best Is Over! immediately after viewing that video. I can’t re-access the Tik Tok video but you can read Eric’s giddy account of a joint appearance by the two of them here.

Both writers are funny and humane.

Congratulations largely concerns Eric’s reluctant move from Philadelphia to Baltimore, where, he says, “all the ghosts of the unhappy person I used to be still lived.” He and his husband eventually buy a house and build a pond, where noisy frogs drive Eric to distraction. He’s able to describe frog-induced insomnia hilariously.

I’m currently reading his earlier book, Here for It, or, How to Save Your Soul in America, which I may like even better. One essay, “There’s Never Any Trouble Here in Bubbleland,” directed me to a Mister Rogers episode called “Mister Rogers Makes an Opera,” for which I will feel eternal gratitude to R. Eric Thomas. I love and respect Mister Rogers as much as the next person, but, really, the word unhinged sometimes comes to mind. Thomas says affectionately that Mister R. was “relentless in his pursuit of eccentricity.” Watch the opera and see.

One of the episode’s songs, “There’s Never Any Trouble Here in Bubbleland,” gave Thomas’s working-class Black family a catch phrase:

[This] became my mother’s frequent ironic refrain, a sardonic way of expressing frustration at a situation that was set up for my parents to fail. Our neglected neighborhood was rumbling around us; my parents worked tirelessly but still struggled financially their parents were ailing. When the weight of it all threatened to overtake her, my mother, with a lightness, would sigh, ‘There’s never any trouble here in Bubbleland.’ It became a relief valve, a code word, a cry for help. It also served as a guiding metaphor. The world outside was troublesome, but the house and the world my parents built for us within it was a bubble. A delicate, permeable utopia.

Which gives you a taste of Thomas’s graceful writing. Check him out.

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1 Response to No Trouble in Bubbleland

  1. Roger Talbott says:

    This was both funny and profound, as usual. And even funnier with your link to Mister Rogers Makes an Opera.
    Thanks.

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