An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott
Despite my love of Jo (and perhaps because I’m so bitter that she never ended up with Laurie), I’ve never read the two Little Women sequels. I don’t know if I could bear it. But I sometimes forget that Louisa May Alcott wrote other things than The Little Women trilogy. This recommendation comes from, of all things, Fandom!Secrets (think Post!Secret, but for us nerds, which concentrates the heartwarming, the heartbreaking, the creepy, and the frankly hilarious), where someone mentioned that they preferred An Old-Fashioned Girl to Little Women. Fair enough, I thought, and took a break from my Arthur Conan Doyle binge.
Quick–what are you reading right now? (Other than this question on this website, of course.) Would you recommend it? What’s it about?
Luckily I’m a literature student, or this would be a very quick answer indeed.
At the moment, I’m reading Virginia Woolf’s Orlando for pleasure. I’m only a hundred or so pages in and I am enjoying it, but I’m also waiting for Orlando to switch sexes. (I’ve seen the film version with Tilda Swinton, which was… interesting, but I never got it together enough to actually review it for the blog.) For class, I’m reading Iola Leroy, one of the first novels published by an African-American woman, and I do need to start on Beloved Sisters and Loving Friends, a collection of letters between two American women of color in the 1800s, for my history class. I also need to read Misreading Jane Eyre for my senior thesis, which I’m going to do this weekend. An Old-Fashioned Girl is on the backburner somewhere, but I’ll probably try to finish it when I have a chance, since I’m starting to crave some Sherlock Holmes—I suppose it’s the weather. (Although it turned out quite hot yesterday, which I didn’t appreciate, as I had to walk down to the local music store to fetch a preorder.) I’ve just put the audiobook of Watership Down on hold at the library, so hopefully, that’ll be coming in soon.
Have you every written any fanfiction? If yes, why and for which book(s)? If no, would you like to and for which books(s)?
For that matter, do you ever READ fanfiction?
Oh, of course! Not for books, unless the Little Women AU in my head counts. But I’m from fandom, and I’ve written plenty for movies, television shows, and video games. (No links—I try to keep my fannish life and real life neatly separated.)
I’m always looking for good Little Women fanfiction starring Jo and Laurie, but I’m always up for good Sherlock Holmes fic or a good The Chronicles of Narnia addressing the problem of Susan. (I don’t like how Gaiman did it.) Really, I’ll read anything as long as I’ve read the source and the fanfic has been recommended.
And yes, of course I read fanfiction. I keep ’em on my phone to read if I don’t feel like reading my digital book. And I’d like to point out that fanfiction is a much broader category than you might think. I refer you to Aja Romano’s brilliant post, “I’m done explaining why fanfiction is okay“, which points out how works based on other works have been around since the dawn of time (Paradise Lost counts!) and are perfectly capable of being fantastic enough to win the Pulitzer. In short—my favorite fanfic is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
In my last post covering my trip to Ireland, I talked about literary sites that we visited. Today, I’m going to talk about a real treat we had—we saw the Gate Theatre’s production of Little Women on our last weekend in Dublin. I have to honest, I was surprised when our professor said we’d be seeing this. I even briefly wondered if it was going to be set in Ireland instead of America. The Gate Theatre was just around the corner from our hotel, so we wandered over, took our seats, and watched it all unfold.
Despite all the problems I have with the term “classics”, I am fond of the books that often fall under that tyrannical label. There’s (usually) a reason they’ve persisted in popular culture for so long, and they’re often a window into a time period and a style of writing that we just don’t have anymore. Also, they’re usually free eBooks, which is also an enormous consideration.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
read by Barbara Caruso
Oh, Little Women. It’s one of the very few “classics” (y’all know I feel about that word) that I actually read as a kid—I think I read it in middle school or high school, casting around for something to read (and still not having my act together library-wise). We had a copy lying around the house, and so I read it, enjoying the domestic drama, identifying with Jo (I think everyone who reads Little Women identifies with Jo), and, towards the end, becoming a soldier in what I believe is one of the oldest shipping wars in fandom. It left an impact on me, needless to say, but I didn’t revisit it (save in film form) until I randomly grabbed the audiobook at my local library.
The discovery that Robin McKinley’s Pegasus was the first half of a novel floored me; yes, I thought the ending was abrupt, but the idea that Robin McKinley, a much loved author who could probably get away with publishing a hearty, predator-repulsing tome, found the “freller too fricking long” to the point that she thought it better to hack a novel in half (her word! Not mine!) kind of threw me for a loop. (To be fair, Ms. McKinley does have deadlines to reach.) In fact, she describes Pegasus’s eventual sequel to be analogous to the way The Return of the King is the sequel to The Two Towers, which is to say not a sequel at all, but the rest of the story. It’s almost as infuriating as the term “literary fiction” to be quite honest. As the very wise Brian Cronin puts it, “serialized fiction is judged – as a whole, yes, but also as each part individually”. This sort of amputation has been running wild through speculative fiction recently–so much so, in fact, that it’s time I stopped complaining and listened–does this sort of thing suggest that some authors ought to go in for serialized novels instead of traditional ones?
(To preface, I am not talking about publishers deciding to separate out a novel, such as the overseas publications of some of the novels in A Song of Fire and Ice and The Lord of the Rings, which, if you’ve been paying attention, is a single novel. I’m talking about authors making that decision for themselves.)
If you could rewrite the ending of any book, which book would it be? And how would you change it?
Oh, there’s plenty of books that need a punchier ending, especially installments in a series. But my immediate reaction to seeing this question was to change the ending of Little Women.
In Little Women, Jo and Laurie are clearly meant for each other–they’re adorable and a little awkward around each other, they get each other, and Laurie is handsome and loaded. But because Jo was based on Louisa May Alcott and Laurie was based on a friend, Alcott was reluctant to pair them off, despite the outpouring of fan mail demanding it. (Little Women was published in two parts.) To spite them, Alcott paired Laurie off with one of Jo’s sisters and Jo off with a German professor twice her age. As you can imagine, I was not happy to see this, and I’d change the ending to have Jo and Laurie end up together.
If I could change one thing more, I’d keep Lev Grossman from writing that sequel to The Magicians; having a sequel destroys the beautifully ambiguous ending of the first book. But who knows? He might pull it off well, so I think I’d just stick with the Little Women rewrite.
Here’s a new column that will be a little irregular–Page to Screen, where I talk about the film adaptations of novels!
based on Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I have a handy set of little tests to determine if someone and I will get along. One of them is a very simple question. If they’ve read Little Women, who did you think Jo should have ended up with?
The correct answer, of course, is Laurie. Even as an asexual girl who professes as much experience in love as a walrus does in flight, I could see that from miles away–it is that blindingly obvious. Even in 1869, fans wrote to Louisa May Alcott begging for her to write a sequel wherein Jo and Laurie got married. (The original Little Women was written in two parts, but is now published with both parts as a single volume–hence the opportunity to appeal to Alcott.) She did not quite concur with the consensus, and married her off to Professor Bhaer and Laurie off to her sister Amy.
The fact that Jo and Laurie are obviously meant to be is one of my firm beliefs concerning literary characters, and the fact that the 1994 film version of Little Women actually made me root for Bhaer and Amy is nothing short of a miracle.