Mittwoch, 16. Mai 2018

Rereading Little Women in its 150th Anniversary Year / Rebecca Foster in: Lit Hub Daily May 16, 2018

It was 1994, and I was in my first-ever book club, reading Little Women with three of my fellow sixth graders in anticipation of the brand-new movie version, which would be in theaters a few days after Christmas. I devoured books indiscriminately in those days, ticking off every installment of the Nancy Drew, Baby-Sitters Club, Encyclopedia Brown, Saddle Club and Redwall series, but Little Women was my first big classic. Reading it made me feel instantly more mature, like I was connecting with the many generations of young women who’d grown up alongside the March girls. I also realized, perhaps for the first time, that books that require a bit more work out of the reader can be commensurately rewarding.
Earlier this year, three things convinced me that it was finally time to revisit Louisa May Alcott’s classic: the new BBC/PBS miniseries, about which more anon; a bibliotherapy appointment at London’s School of Life, during which I was encouraged to try rereading some childhood favorites; and the buzz about the novel’s 150th anniversary, which is the occasion for Anne Boyd Rioux’s forthcoming Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters (W.W. Norton, August 21st).
When I decided to return to Little Women, more than two-thirds of my life had passed since I first opened a well-thumbed library paperback and sank into the story of the March family. How much would I remember of the plot and characters, I wondered, and could the book possibly mean as much to me in my thirties as it had in adolescence? It’s not surprising that I recalled very few specific incidents, though the broad strokes of Jo’s writing career and romantic prospects had stuck with me. What I didn’t expect of a classic novel was lots of slang: The original 1868 text has been restored in the Oxford University Press edition I read this year, so “ain’t it” and “don’t it” are common, along with some outdated vernacular phrases, whereas after 1880 most editions were cleaned up to offer more standardized prose.
I’d even forgotten that the novel opens on Christmas; that wasn’t just some marketing ploy to have Susan Sarandon and the rest pictured against a snowy background in the movie posters. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” Jo sighs in the very first line. With Father off at war as a chaplain and little money to spare, the holidays appear bleak indeed in 1861. Yet the make-do-and-mend spirit is alive, with Beth’s chirrupy voice counterbalancing her sisters’ complaints and their beloved mother, “Marmee,” reminding them how privileged they are to donate their Christmas meal to poor immigrants. .... [mehr]

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