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Tag Archives | Louisa May Alcott

Little Women

Dar­ling Daugh­ter and I watched the recent PBS ver­sion of Lit­tle Women last weekend.I was out of town when the first episode aired, but she wait­ed for me and we streamed it Fri­day night so we’d be caught up to watch the final two episodes Sun­day night.

I liked Lit­tle Women just fine as a kid. I read it tucked between the ban­is­ters and “the old book cab­i­net” at the top of my grand­par­ents’ stairs when I was prob­a­bly nine or ten. I liked Jo very much, and Beth, too. I found Meg too grown-up to iden­ti­fy with, and Amy…well, she seemed like a bit of a brat to me. I thought her sis­ters were…generous with her. I start­ed the nov­el again when I was in col­lege after an Amer­i­can Lit class taught me about the friend­ship of Emer­son, Thore­au, and the Alcotts, but I didn’t make it very far. There was a lot of tran­scen­den­tal preach­i­ness to it, I thought. I didn’t remem­ber those parts from my perch at the top of my grand­par­ents’ stairs.

Dar­ling Daugh­ter lis­tened to an audio­book of Lit­tle Women dur­ing a pneu­mo­nia recov­ery when she was nine-ish. She loved it. Kept lis­ten­ing to it over and over again, even after she was well. I think of that time as The Lit­tle Women Era. I could hear the tran­scen­den­tal ser­mons from her bed­room all the way down in the kitchen — right away in the morn­ing as I made break­fast. Again at night as she got ready for bed. Some­times I won­der if her mighty work eth­ic, dili­gence, and focus comes right out of that book. She lis­tened to those twen­ty-three CD’s over and over and over again. And when I got her the thick nov­el to read, she pored over that, too.

Last sum­mer, we took a trip to Con­cord, Mass­a­chu­setts, a place I’d want­ed to vis­it since I was in high school. I’m a Thore­au fan, you see, and it was a thrill to walk around beau­ti­ful Walden Pond accessed via the very trail (or close to it) Ralph Wal­do Emer­son used to vis­it his friend out in the lit­tle cab­in in the woods. It was also great fun to tour the Alcott house and hear about the fam­i­ly. Dar­ling Daugh­ter was as elat­ed with that part as I was with tramp­ing around Walden Pond. As we moved room to room, she whis­pered sup­ple­men­ta­tion to the (very good) tour guide’s words. Her cheeks were pink, her eyes aglow. She was in her element.

Some­where along the line, I’m sure we’ve watched a cou­ple of movie ver­sions of the famous March family’s adven­tures and tri­als. The PBS series was not that — a movie, that is. It was more like a col­lage we decid­ed — episodes, snap­shots, very short acts—gor­geous­ly pre­sent­edIt deserves a cin­e­matog­ra­phy award, I think. Stun­ning light and images. We quib­bled hap­pi­ly over whether the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion was just right…or not. We glo­ried in our recog­ni­tion of cer­tain places in the Con­cord area. We ful­ly appre­ci­at­ed the self-reliance footage of the Alcott gar­dens, hen­house, and orchards. And we teared up with Beth’s death, even know­ing it was com­ing, rejoiced at the birth of Meg’s twins, felt all the con­flict­ed emo­tions sur­round­ing Amy’s jour­ney to Europe with Aunt March, root­ed for Jo through­out, and found Lau­rie very hand­some, indeed…. Though we missed the sub­tle­ty of Jo and Laurie’s rela­tion­ship in the book. They rather upped the roman­tic ele­ment in this production.

At times I looked over at my girl, her face aglow by the light of the tele­vi­sion screen. Some­times her eyes were danc­ing, some­times her lips were pursed. She tends to be a purist…and as she said sev­er­al times, “the movie is nev­er as good….” But this was a special…“presentation,” we decid­ed. We won­dered if it would intro­duce a new gen­er­a­tion to a clas­sic, sort of doubt­ing that a pre-tween would find it very interesting.

As for me…I loved watch­ing with my Lit­tle Women-obsessed kid­do. I might’ve missed it with­out her, but I wasn’t about to know­ing that this book has so been her book. (Mine is Anne of Green Gables—and I watch all movie adap­ta­tions with my heart in my throat, wait­ing to see if they get it right.) As I brushed my teeth Sun­day night I won­dered about read­ing Lit­tle Women togeth­er this summer…we haven’t done that. Maybe this sum­mer is the time to do so.

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Skinny Dip with Marsha Qualey

 Joni MitchellWhich celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop? 

Joni. And I’d come pre­pared with ques­tions about her paint­ing, not her music, because then, just maybe, she’d see beyond the gob­s­macked fan. Maybe she’d draw some­thing on a nap­kin for me. 

If she didn’t show, I’d be okay because I’d have a back-up date with Louisa May. 

buttered toastWhat’s your favorite late-night snack?

But­tered toast, but I can’t indulge that often now. Once upon a time, though, it was a night­ly thing. Then when I was diag­nosed with celi­ac dis­ease I went years with­out it because the bread I made or could find in stores just didn’t cut it. And then along came Udi’s.

Most cher­ished child­hood memory?

I had the best best friend any qui­et, intro­vert­ed, book­ish girl could have. Mary was just the oppo­site of me, and when I was with her, adven­ture wasn’t just some­thing that hap­pened in books, it was some­thing we made together.

earthwormsOne first grade day we were walk­ing the six to sev­en blocks home for lunch. It had rained all morn­ing and we were excit­ed by all the earth­worms still on the side­walks. What if we gath­ered them all and sold them as bait? We began col­lect­ing the liveli­est ones and putting them in the pock­ets of our rain­coats. The pick­ings were grand and we didn’t notice the time pass. When we neared our hous­es, con­ve­nient­ly across the street from each oth­er, some­thing made us real­ize how late we were (A beck­on­ing fam­i­ly mem­ber? Church bells? Kids return­ing to school? This detail is lost.).  We rushed to our respec­tive homes for a quick lunch and met up again at her fam­i­ly car for a ride back to school — we were that late.

The sun was shin­ing and we were in a car and nei­ther of us wore a rain­coat. The sun pre­vailed for many days there­after. Only when at last we again need­ed our rain­coats, did either of us remem­ber the grand plan to make a seven-year-old’s for­tune by sell­ing worms.

The worms were dust in the pock­ets of our size 6x rain­coats. There’s an old woman’s somber metaphor about dreams in there some­where, but it wouldn’t have reg­is­tered with Mary and me.  We laughed then and we still laugh about it now. 

Morn­ing per­son? Night person?

Night, now and forever.

What’s the strangest tourist attrac­tion you’ve visited?

Mary Nohl HomeI love envi­ron­men­tal art — the con­crete and bot­tle con­struc­tions that an indi­vid­ual artist builds over the years on his or her prop­er­ty. Thanks to the John Michael Kohler Art Cen­ter in She­boy­gan, Wis­con­sin and the Kohler Foun­da­tion sev­er­al such instal­la­tions in Wis­con­sin have been pre­served. Any one of these would qual­i­fy as strange, and they are all worth a visit.

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Discussing the Books We’ve Loved: Déjà Vu

As I ready this arti­cle for pub­li­ca­tion, I am sit­ting in the cof­fee shop where I first met Heather Vogel Fred­er­ick, now a much-admired author of some of my favorite books. I still enjoy get­ting caught up in a series, accept­ing the like­able and not-so-like­able char­ac­ters as my new-found cir­cle of friends, antic­i­pat­ing the treat of stay­ing with the book as I open the pages of the sec­ond and third and fourth vol­umes in the series.… more
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Alongside the Books We’ve Loved: Venom and the River

This week, join me as we con­tin­ue to look at books that orbit the con­stel­la­tions of chil­dren’s series books much-loved by adults: Louisa May Alcott’s books, the Lit­tle House books, the Anne of Green Gables books, and Maud Hart Lovelace’s Bet­sy-Tacy books. A brand new nov­el, Ven­om on the Riv­er, is now avail­able from my favorite young adult mys­tery author, Mar­sha Qua­ley.… more
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