Wednesday, March 14, 2007

How Much Are We Influenced By Childhood Reading?

I have been treating, and will continue to treat, you to my Peter Pan obsession. Unfortunately for you, I also fixated Little Men and to a lesser extent Little Women when I was young. I've even read Jo's Boys. This has has also led to an up-and-down interest in Louisa May Alcott and Transcendentalists. All of which led me to read Susan Cheever's American Bloomsbury.

Which leads me to this: Susan Cheever says Little Women is a significant book because in it "Louisa May Alcott invented a new way to write about the ordinary lives of women, and to tell stories that are usually heard in kitchens or bedrooms." She says that in Little Women she learned "that domestic details can be the subject of art, that small things in a woman's life--cooking, the trimming of a dress or hat, quiet talk--can be just as important a subject as a great whale or a scarlet letter."

Next week I'll be giving a talk in which I will address my interest in what I (and others) call situational humor and what situations interest me. I don't write about divorce, death, abuse, or any combinations thereof and not just because those situations are not traditionally funny. I am interested in what has been called "the poetry of the everyday"--mundane events that can have a huge impact on our lives.

And now I'm wondering how much Louisa May had to do with that.


Katie said...

It's so nice to see someone else appreciates Little Men! I adored that book when I was a kid and recently re-read it and found that it is just as good as I remember. I was obsessed with Louisa May for a while, but never really found any of her other "children's" books appealed to me nearly as much. I liked Little Women and, even mildly enjoyed Jo's Boys, but neither one ever meant as much to me as Little Men did! People always look at me funny when I say that, since many people don't even know it exists! I'm so glad I'm not the only one who appreciates it!

Gina Ruiz said...

I'm also a big fan of Louisa May. I first read Little Women and fell so in love with that book that I read everything by her I could find. I loved Little Men, Jo's Boy's, Eight Cousins and A Rose in Bloom. Later, I read March by Geraldine Brooks - got fascinated once again by the whole spiritual movement of the time. Little Women lit a fire in me for reading and I loved reading this post!

Gail Gauthier said...

There used to be an old cliche about every girl wanting to be Jo in Little Women. I wanted to be Jo in Little Men. And to a very great extent, that's how my life has gone.