Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Little Women, Warning: SPOILERS

I have to confess that I cheated. I was reading Little Women and I wanted to be directed so I could look for things to talk about later, so I read a list of reading group questions supplied by the internet and I got all in a huff. I had only read through the first half, so I knew the characters well, and had a good idea of where I wanted the story to go. The questions not only revealed to me that Beth was going to die, but the Jo was not going to marry Laurrie. I was outraged. I almost made up my mind that I wasn’t going to like the book. But after reading it, I really did like it. Here’s some of the questions, and I’ll write what I think about them, and anyone who’s read it can respond.

Do you find it surprising that once Laurie is rejected by Jo, he falls in love with Amy? Do you feel his characterization is complete and he is acting within the "norm" of the personality Alcott has created for him, or does Alcott simply dispose of him once our heroine rejects him?

I don’t find it surprising at all. Like Jo says, she’s like the wind while Amy is like the sun and while a romance between Jo and Laurie would have been more interesting, or more fun, it wouldn’t have been more work to keep it happy. As far as the “norm” of the personality, I think it is out of the norm of his character, and this is what I think the book is about to some degree: that you can choose to learn from life, be it good or bad. Laurie had been a gadabout his whole life and had made an effort to learn from the good (i.e. trying to improve himself to win Jo), but when the Jo refused him, he was resigned to be unhappy. Amy showed him that you move forward no matter what.

As far as the shake-up goes, in general I think Alcott wanted to show that you don’t have to settle for so-so love. You don’t have to be married unless there is the potential for both parties to be ‘Julie-Andrews-spinning-on-a-mountain-top happy’.

The last two chapters find Jo setting aside her budding literary career to run a school with her husband. Why do you think Alcott made her strongest feminine figure sacrifice her own life plans for her husband's?

Boo to this whole question. It makes me irritated that people have forgotten what Alcott was trying to say in the last two chapters. That someone could read that and think only of the worldly glory that Jo was giving up with her writing and not see the joy that she invited into her life by surrounding herself with family and children is truly lamentable. Jo’s writing never really made her supremely happy because she was just ‘talented’ and not a genius, and thus could never create that wonderful masterpiece she dreamed of in her castle in the sky. But with getting married and opening a school, she realized the most wonderfully feminine part of herself and was really happy. And, as a point of order, the idea to open the school was Jo’s in the first place, not Mr. Baer’s.

The other questions were mostly dumb and obvious, but I just wanted to say that I really agree with the lessons taught by Marmee to her daughters. I especially like the ones imparted to Meg about making the home pleasant for her family and not letting her children eclipse her husband. I didn’t mark the page, but it really rang true to me when Marmee says something like, “you are the sunshine of your home.” As women, we have the opportunity to be very literally the glue that holds our home together. I know for me, I get bogged down in the every day minutiae of running a home (and going to school) like making sure that we have milk in the refrigerator and singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star for the millionth time in a row. But with the book, Alcott shows us that life is hard and housework is very real (I know I don’t sew one-tenth the amount that the March girls did) but like the last page of the book, when Marmee gathers her family around her, we too will have a reward so delicious that it can make sweet the bitter and everything will be more than worth it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A sipid story of requited love

Mom sent this to me awhile ago, and I was thinking about it today. I thought I'd reproduce it here so anyone who is interested can have a good laugh.

How I Met my Wife by Jack Winter

It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate.

I was furling my wieldy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way. I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I'd have to make bones about it since I was travelling cognito. Beknownst to me, the hostess, whom I could see both hide and hair of, was very proper, so it would be skin off my nose if anything bad happened And even though I had only swerving loyalty to her, my manners couldn't be peccable. Only toward and heard-of behavior would do.

Fortunately, the embarrassment that my maculate appearance might cause was evitable. There were two ways about it, but the chances that someone as flappable as I would be ept enough to become persona grata or a sung hero were slim. I was, after all, something to sneeze at, someone you could easily hold a candle to, someone who usually aroused bridled passion. So I decided not to risk it. But then, all at once, for some apparent reason, she looked in my direction and smiled in a way that I could make heads and tails of.

I was plussed. It was concerting to see that she was communicado, and it nerved me that she was interested in a pareil like me, sight seen. Normally, I had a domitable spirit, but, being corrigible, I felt capacitated -- as if this were something I was great shakes at -- and forgot that I had succeeded in situations like this only a told number of times. So, after a terminable delay, I acted with mitigated gall and made my way through the ruly crowd with strong givings.

Nevertheless, since this was all new hat to me and I had no time to prepare a promptu speech, I was petuous. Wanting to make only called-for remarks, I started talking about the hors d'oeuvres, trying to abuse her of the notion that I was sipid, and perhaps even bunk a few myths about myself. She responded well, and I was mayed that she considered me a savoury character who was up to some good. She told me who she was. "What a perfect nomer," I said, advertently. The conversation became more and more choate, and we spoke at length to much avail. But I was defatigable, so I had to leave at a godly hour. I asked if she wanted to come with me. To my delight, she was committal. We left the party together and have been together ever since. I have given her my love, and she has requited it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

This is the best fantasy adventure book I've read since Harry Potter. It's something like 450 pages but I read it in two days, so it's fast and easy. I grabbed it on a mad dash down the juvenile fiction aisle at random and it proved to be not only an entertaining read but also very clever and well thought-out. I think it's a trilogy because I saw at the bookstore yesterday that the first two are in paperback and the third one is out in hardcover now. It's basically the story of how Peter Pan became Peter Pan. But it's nothing predictable or anything that I would have thought of. I think one of the author's daughter's asked about how Peter Pan and Captain Hook met in the first place and that got the wheels spinning. It seems that a lot of the best fiction is in the juvenile section, but this could just as easily be shelved for adults. (Or maybe I just like juvenile fiction better.)

And I have to say, I'm so excited that I actually have something to post here. Austin and I were talking about the lack of reading we've been doing lately, or rather, the lack of reading silently to ourselves. In the last month or two I have read aloud to Owen and/or Soren Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, several "Jack and Annie" books (that's Magic Tree House series in Soren-speak), as well as countless short stories, but nothing for myself. Well, that's not entirely true, but almost. I love to read but somehow my time is getting all sucked up doing other things (funny how that happens...).

Anyway, this book was really good, I highly recommend it. I can't wait to start the next one.