Monday, September 22, 2008

Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott **

As shown by the stars listed above, this just wasn't very good. If you like to read a lot of lectures given to young people how to live their lives, you might like it though. Basically that's all this book is, a series of lectures delivered by Jo to the poor kids she's had the "pleasure" of raising. If I have to hear one more time about the evils of drinking, gambling, & cursing, I'll puke.
When reading this book 2 things become painfully obvious: 1) Ms. Alcott's publisher really wanted her to write this book to wrap things up with this series, even though Louisa didn't really have anything more she wanted to write about these characters, & 2) Louisa May Alcott never married or had kids of her own. It's so damn easy to sit there & think how you'd do it better when you've never had to do it yourself, & that's pretty much what she does in this book. You can just see her poor nieces & nephews cringing as she gets up on her soapbox yet again on how young people should be raised & trained & so forth.
I think this should be a lesson to all of us: don't write about something you have absolutely no idea about. It's either going to come across as very unreal, or very lame. This unfortunate book came across as both.
One last note: the big reason I read this book was to find out what happened to all the kids when they grew up. It was really depressing, since the "good" kids ended happily married with lucrative jobs while the "bad" kids all died or had miserable lives. And of course Dick & Billy from the previous book are conveniently disposed of. "Poor little Dick was dead, so was Billy; & no one could mourn for them, since life would never be happy, afflicted as they were in mind & body."
Louisa May, I think they died from reading this book.
Allow me to give them both better roles in this lovely tome:
Perfect little Daisy fell in love with Dick, & vise versa. Since even obedient Nat wasn't good enough for her mother Meg, Daisy & Dick ran off together in the dark of night, got married & moved out west. Starting from the ground up they established a berry farm in one of those lovely fertile areas of California & became very successful. Dick's last name was Smucker.
Billy left Plumfield (the prison Mrs. Jo ran with her weird German husband) after being treated so poorly. He ran off to Boston & got a job as a janitor at Harvard. He worked nights cleaning the chalkboards in the lecture halls, but occasionally solved one of the incredibly difficult math problems left on the boards. No one ever figured out it was him, & he was happy to be left alone. He never married, but had a nice little apartment & took care of himself & was a valuable member of the community.
Since we've left Nat without a denouement since Daisy ran off with Dick, we'll say Nat stayed in Europe & became a violinist with the London Symphony Orchestra. He came out of the closet when he met Oscar Wilde & lived a flamboyant & enjoyable life amid the London artsy set. Every Christmas he wrote to Plumfield, telling them that he was goddamn grateful they'd helped him out when he was younger, & that he'd drink a toast to them with hard liqueur while he was playing roulette in Monte Carlo on New Year's Eve.

I think that should pretty much set the old gal to rolling in her grave, don't you?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Little Men by Louisa May Alcott ***

There are some good points to this book, but it's so outdated it's hard to like it as much as "Little Women". Of course I've fixated on the fact that 2 of the boys that Jo & her husband take in have disabilities--Dick is a hunchback & Billy's brain has been fried by his father making him study too much--& Alcott's treatment of them is pretty lame (pun intended). She says how their poor, pitiful little lives aren't worth much. I'm reading the third part of this trilogy right now, I'd love to make some radical changes to it though! Poor Louisa May would roll in her grave!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott ****

I don't think I need to tell everybody what this book is about unless you've been living under a rock for the past 100 years.
What I will do is say that it still is a great book. It's amazing to me how easy it is to read. Also, I hadn't read the book in a long time & had only seen the movies about it in between. Reading the book helped me clear up in my mind a lot of the relationships that evolve during the time period described, mostly the Jo/Laurie aspect. Reading this book at my age now I have a much better understanding of those little intricacies of relationships, & I also appreciate that Amy isn't just a spoiled brat of a girl who always gets her way. She's a much better character when you actually read the book!
The only complaint I have about it is it is a little nicey-nicey, even for the 1800's. But I have to remind myself that Louisa May was from New England, & if there's anywhere in the country that's traditionally prudish it has to be there. I'm sure the "sordid" stories that Jo was writing for money would make me hoot out loud at their innocence, but in that time & place I'm sure there were quite a few folks who couldn't take that kind of excitement!
Overall, a highly recommended book for girls (& guys) of all ages.