Fantastic Life! is Squealer's printed catalog, and includes reviews, interviews, musings and ruminations on all things Squealer. This is the electronic archive.

Drew Watcha Like, Kid: Nancy Drew, My Obsession

by Madelyn Rosenberg

The first time Nancy Drew kissed Ned Nickerson, I thought I'd throw up.

There she was, America's favorite amateur girl detective (a job title that somehow gave her prowess with the local police department) planting a "lingering kiss" on the lips of a boy who, in the old-school Nancy Drew mysteries, merely professed "a special admiration for Nancy."

And now here he was, calling her Nan, for God's sake, and kissing her.

And he wasn't the only one. Daryl Gray kissed her, too, in "Secrets Can Kill," and I quote: "Nancy slid her hands up Daryl's arms, felt his thick blond hair under her fingers, felt his lips press against hers. She could hear her heart pounding in her ears..."

Sure, her faithful friends, George and Bess, pop over at the right moment, no doubt preventing Nancy from losing her virginity on her living room couch. But the point is, she never should have been in that position to begin with. It's wrong, wrong, wrong.

That's just one reason I spurn the updated Nancy Drew mysteries in favor of the old ones.

I came to Nancy Drew late in life, which is to say, I wasn't 10 or even 15 when I inherited a stack of 1930s mysteries, but 29.

I saw immediately what I had been missing. The old versions have their own imperfections, stereotypes where gypsies are either thieves or talented violinists and a black housekeeper applying to fill in for the beloved Hannah Gruen is deemed untrustworthy.

But the old versions also have Nancy, forever brave, no matter how many times per book she is conked on the head and rendered unconscious, forever generous, taking no reward for her efforts, save an old clock and, in a moment of weakness, a sapphire ring. Forever independent, running around with her friends from New York to Africa because, since her mother died when Nancy was very young, she was forced to become resourceful and efficient.

She has keen powers of observation, a knack for bringing long-lost parties together again and the ability to help people out of "financial reverses."

In the 1930s series, she doesn't just get out of a car, she alights from her roadster. And her hair isn't reddish-blonde, it is titian, a color named for Italian painter Tiziano Vecelli, which makes it infinitely more exotic. Not that Nancy spends too much time primping. She is always ready for dances in no time, though she does take her leisure picking out her wardrobe.

After I received my first batch of Nancy Drews, I immediately set out looking for more and found the 30s versions hard to come by. I settled for the `70s versions instead. A well-meaning friend gave me the two offensive copies from 1989 and I back-pedaled immediately to where Nancy was still aware of and in charge of her surroundings and, more importantly, still chaste.

She's all girl, all detective. As Mrs. Struthers so nicely puts it in "The Clue in the Old Album," "I see now why it is you happened to spot the thief. You are often spoken of in glowing terms for your cleverness in apprehending unscrupulous people."

Nancy, of course, politely brushes aside the compliment, as I'm sure she would brush aside this essay, choosing instead to share her glory with her friends, and to say demurely "oh really you give me much more credit than I deserve," and then changing the conversation to something more comfortable, like food.

Nancy, you see, eats. Not frozen yogurt, favored by athletic George in the updated series, but chocolate cake and chicken salad and roast beef and tiny potatoes and hamburgers that could never cause stomach upset.

Sure, she still eats in the newer Nancy Drews. A distinctive scene comes to mind in "The Suspect Next Door":

The place: The Drews' front porch. Nancy and Ned have just brought in a pizza.

"Pizza, a full moon, and you," Ned said. "I love it.

"Last time we spent an evening on the porch, we were up talking till two in the morning," she recalled.

"Not just talking," Ned reminded her, kissing her tenderly on her lips.

Fortunately, just then, Nancy decided to take a bite of pizza. But it was too late for me. I already had indigestion.