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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Department of Book Reports, Tome #6

I confess that I’ve never read Little Women. I suppose it is a “gender” thing. When I took up reading as a child, I tore through the Hardy Boys, Tarzan, and the Tom Swift books. As a child of the sixties, I took up more serious minded reading when I entered high school. And in the meantime, Alcott eluded me. Even with publication last month of Susan Cheever’s American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau (Simon and Schuster $26.00), or Geraldine Brook’s Pulitzer Prize winning follow up to Little Women, March (Penguin $14.00). On the other hand, Tammy read and loved all the young adult books Louisa May ever wrote.
But now I’m more engaged. Kit Bakke’s excellent book, Miss Alcott’s E-mail: Yours for Reforms of All Kinds (David Godine $24.95) is part memoir, part history and part biography of Louisa May Alcott. Ms. Bakke, through the lens of an imaginary e-mail correspondence with Alcott, reviews her life as a novelist, an abolitionist, suffragette and Civil War nurse. At the same time, Bakke explores her own life, her commitment to social change and coming of age in sixties America. As for me, I learned a great deal about that literary confluence in mid-19th century that existed in Concord, Massachusetts that included the figures mentioned in Cheever’s subtitle, as well as John Brown and his family and Herman Melville. Bakke is a graceful writer, full of anecdote, honest about her own triumphs and mistakes. Ms. Bakke will be reading and signing copies of her book on Friday February 23rd at 7:00 pm at Jackson Street Books. Please stop by if you’re in the neighborhood.

I'll leave with two quotes from Louisa May, both written in 1869. The first is from a letter written to her Uncle Sam May: "Publishers are very perverse & won't let authors have their way so my little women must grow up & be married off in a very stupid style".

And in Little Women Volume II she puts into the mouth of Marmee, "Don't shut yourself up in a bandbox because you are a woman. But understand what is going on, and educate yourself to take part in the world's work, for it all affects you and yours."

Once more, democommie™™™™®© was instrumental in the preparation of this book report.

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