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21 December 2018 @ 05:29 pm
"Miss Alcott's books are all delightful, and Jo's Boys is one of the best of them." - Boston Evening Transcript

"Thousands of readers will approach this later book with keen curiosity. They will find it lacking in some of the spontaneity of its predecessors, yet still an interesting volume[.]" - Unknown

"Its romance has a singular strain of youthfulness about it, which hardly enables one to feel in it the dignity of real love, courtship, and marriage." - The Critic

"The fault of the story is that there is too much of it. One is bewildered by the numerous boys and girls, and finds it hard to keep the run of 'who is who.' " - The Providence Sunday Journal

"A trifle labored and tedious." - The Graphic

In 1882 LMA helped start Concord's temperance society, destroyed most of her mother's diaries, raised her niece Lulu, and mourned her hero Emerson. In October she started Jo's Boys, originally intended a St. Nicholas serial. That same month Bronson had a stroke. In February 1884 she described the book's future as uncertain. In December 1884 she started again, writing two hours for three days, which made her ill with vertigo for a week. In April 1886 she mentions working on it for one hour a day, a limit ordered by her doctor. In June she moved from Boston to Concord and was able to finish 15 chapters. July she turned in the manuscript and it was published in England in September and America in October.

1: Ten Years Later
Mr. Laurence is dead and left his fortune to found Laurence College. Marmee is also gone. Hannah is not mentioned. Mr. March is the school chaplain.

Franz is in Germany with his merchant uncle. Emil was sent on a long voyage in the hopes that he would give up on sailing, but the opposite happened. Dolly, George, and Ned study law. Nan and Tom study medicine. It's not mentioned where Nan went, but LMA's friend Dr. Rhoda Lawrence went to Boston University School of Medicine.Read more...Collapse )

This entry was originally posted at https://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/45972.html
05 December 2018 @ 03:18 pm
Chapter 1: Sylvia
The Warwick/Ottila opening is gone, and the original Ch 2 is now Ch 1. Prue attempts to get her younger sister Sylvia out of bed, she resists, etc. When she's working in her garden she wears a short skirt, not trousers. Thus Moor's thoughts are different - "What a changeful thing it is! haunting one's premises unseen, and stealing one's books unsuspected; dreaming one half the day and masquerading the other half. What will happen next? Let us see but not be seen, lest the boy turn shy and run away before the pretty play is done!" becomes “What a changeful thing it is! haunting one's premises unseen, and stealing one's books unsuspected; dreaming one half the day and working hard the other half. What will happen next?"

Sylvia decides that Moor could be her friend.

Chapter 2: Moor
She returns Goethe's Wilhelm Meister to him and they walk in his garden with Tilly, the gardener's little girl. “It is so old-fashioned and well kept,” she says. He describes the uses of each herb. She asks if the bees ever sting Tilly and he says, no, children and animals understand one another. Some people like his friend never lose this understanding.Read more...Collapse )

This entry was originally posted at https://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/45063.html
19 November 2018 @ 02:13 pm
Chapter One: The Catastrophe
There are three sledding paths in Harmony Village. Joe says to Jill that she wouldn't dare take the biggest one, so she insists that her friend Jack Minot take her down it several times. The final time they crash; Jack breaks his leg and hits his head, and Jill hurts her back. Jack's sled is named Thunderbolt. Jill's real name is Janey Pecq.

Chapter Two: Two Penitents
Jack, an athletic boy, is horrified at the prospect of three weeks in bed. Jill's injury is more concerning. She blames herself for the accident and says she'll be the best girl ever if she ever gets out of her room. We learn that Mrs. Pecq is an Englishwoman and Jill's dead father was French Canadian.Read more...Collapse )

This entry was originally posted at https://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/44553.html
02 November 2018 @ 12:07 pm
Chapter 1: A Pair of Friends
It says friends but I’m shipping the hell out of them. Diana, 28, is a sculptor and partly inspired by Harriet Hosmer, according to Sarah Elbert’s introduction. Percy, 25, is a painter and her mixture of fun-loving and artistic dedication resembles May Alcott. Percy’s only family is her grandmother, while Diana lives alone, “denying herself the pleasures of youth, the honors of sex and beauty, the joys of love, the solaces of home.”

Percy comes to tell Diana that one, she’s rejected her suitor, and two, she’s leaving in a week to study in Paris then Rome. Diana heartily approves of both items. Percy shows her a painting of a lark flying in the sky and Diana says “it is very good!” Grandmother thought the lark should have a nest for a home. Diana disagrees, liking that the bird “does not stoop to fill gaping beaks with worms.” The symbolism needs no explanation.Read more...Collapse )

Later this month: Moods, revised edition.

Edit: I’m starting to think that Harriet Hosmer never made a statue of Saul and people are confusing her with William Wetmore Story’s Saul.

Interestingly, in her introduction to Alternative Alcott (an excellent book), Elaine Showalter suggests that “At Home” is meant to be Chapter 3 and “Puck” is meant to be Chapter 4.

This entry was originally posted at https://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/44211.html
28 August 2018 @ 01:35 pm
“M. M. appears and causes much guessing. It is praised and criticized, and I enjoy the fun, especially when friends say, 'I know you didn't write it, for you can't hide your peculiar style.”
-Alcott's journal entry, April 1877

“The unknown author – who, of whichever sex, writes in this instance with both the defects and the merits of a woman's pen – has given a new, fantastic dress to a world-old story.”
-Edward R. Burlingame

“We should judge, aften reading a hundred pages of this book, that it was written by a young person, probably a girl, with much literary facility and fluency, and an excellent grasp of plot, but with little experience of life . . . The language is stilted and dramatic sometimes, but never degenerates into slang or vulgarity. With advancing years and a larger experience the author may make her mark.”
-Godey's Lady's Book

“We have not much doubt that Julian Hawthorne is the author of A Modern Mephistopheles . . . The language is vigorous and clear, having a sculpturesque effect, and the sucession of periods and paragraphs is often so admirable that many pages together seem to be set to solemn rhythm.”
-The Atlantic Monthly

In 1876 Thomas Niles, the same partner of Roberts Brothers Publishing who suggest that Alcott write a novel for girls, had another great idea. A series of books published anonymously so that the public might have the fun of guessing the authors. The idea appealed to Alcott's sense of humor, and she was certainly no stranger to publishing under another name. For inspiration she turned to an old favorite, Goethe's Faust. Although she used the original title of A Long Fatal Love Chase for it, the two books are fairly different. ALFLC takes place in four countries, while AMM is set almost entirely in the one house.

In 1888 Alcott gave her publisher permission to reprint it with her name, along with "A Whisper in the Dark" to satisfy the curiosity of all the readers who wondered about Jo's sensation stories. The book came out posthumously.

Two epigraphs. One given to all the No Name Series - "Is the gentleman anonymous? Is he quite unknown?" from Daniel Deronda, ironic since so many of the authors were women. The other from Faust part 2 - “The Indescribable, Here it is done: The Woman-Soul leadeth us Upward and on!”

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This entry was originally posted at https://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/43086.html
02 July 2018 @ 12:28 pm
Coming Home
Rose, Phebe, and Uncle Alec return from two years in Europe. Jamie, Archie, Mac, and Charlie meet them at the docks. “[S]he received the impression that Archie was about the same, that Mac had decidedly improved, and that something was amiss with Charlie.”

Archie has joined the family shipping business, Mac graduated from College (Harvard I guess?) with honors, and Charlie was “suspelled or expended” as Jamie says. Aunt Peace has passed away while Aunt Plenty maintains the home fires on the Aunt-Hill.

Rose announces that she has chosen a career in philanthropy. Charlie condescends that she'll get tired of it and she responds, "I am sorry you have so low an opinion of women: there was a time when you believed in them sincerely." Then she lines the boys up and stares at them, just like they did to her in the first book. She's such a delightful character.Read more...Collapse )

No review next month. I want a break.

This entry was originally posted at https://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/42307.html
19 June 2018 @ 12:23 pm
“It is evidently written in very good faith, but it strike us as a very ill-chosen sort of entertainment to set before children. It is unfortunate not only in its details, but in its general tone, in the constant ring of the style. The smart satirical tone is the last one in the world to be used in describing to children their elders and betters and the social mysteries that surrond them.” - Henry James in the Nation

“There are the same vigor, discrimination, character-portraiture, and racy dialogue that characterize all her writings. It is no mean artist who can group with consummate skill a score or more of prominent figures, and still bring his hero or herone into bold relief, at the same time preserving the distinct individuality of every leading character.” - Anonymous in the Overland Monthly

We open with a preface, in which LMA is once again self-deprecating: The Author is quite aware of the defects of this little story, many of which were unavoidable, as it first appeared serially. But, as Uncle Alec's experiment was intended to amuse the young folks, rather than suggest educational improvements for the consideration of the elders, she trusts that these shortcomings will be overlooked by the friends of the Eight Cousins, and she will try to make amends in a second volume, which shall attempt to show The Rose in Bloom.

Two Girls
Rose Campbell, a recently orphaned girl living with her great-aunts, Peace and Plenty, hears a mocking-bird. Except it isn't a bird – it's Phebe the maid. The two girls talk, providing some exposition. Rose has seven boy cousins and is scared of meeting them. Phebe was left at the poor-house as a baby (she's 15 now).

They jump at a loud noise, and Debby, the housekeeper, sends Rose to the parlor.
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This entry was originally posted at https://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/41894.html
25 May 2018 @ 12:09 pm
I just can't finish the book. Too painful. Posting what I have so far and moving on to Transcendental Wild Oats.

Although published in 1872, LMA started Work in 1861, before Little Women, before Hospital Sketches.

November 1872 Got out the old manuscript of “Success,” and called it “Work.” Fired up the engine, and plunged into a vortex, with many doubts about getting out. Can't work slowly, the thing possesses me, and I must obey till it's done. One thousand dollars was sent as a seal on the bargain, so I was bound, and sat at the oar like a galley-slave.

March 1873
Finished “Work,” - twenty chapters. Not what it should be, - too many interruptions. Should like to do one book in peace, and see if it wouldn't be good.

"An endless significance lies in work; in idleness alone is there perpetual despair."--CARLYLE.


Warnings: suicide, prostitution

We begin with our heroine, Christie, telling her aunt that she is leaving home because she is a burden and she knows her uncle doesn’t love her. Said uncle predicts she will be a failure like her mother. Christie fires back. "Please, don't say that to me; I can't bear it, for I shall never think her life a failure, because she tried to help herself, and married a good man in spite of poverty, when she loved him! You call that folly; but I'll do the same if I can; and I'd rather have what my father and mother left me, than all the money you are piling up, just for the pleasure of being richer than your neighbors."

He’s like okay, whatever and she sits alone by the fire. She thought of her mother, so like herself, who had borne the commonplace life of home till she could bear it no longer. Then had gone away to teach, as most country girls are forced to do. Had met, loved, and married a poor gentleman, and, after a few years of genuine happiness, untroubled even by much care and poverty, had followed him out of the world, leaving her little child to the protection of her brother.

Christie boards with a Mrs. Flint, who she knows from somewhere. Very lucky how Jo in LW and Christie both know people who own boardinghouses and don’t have to cry themselves to sleep in hotel rooms because nobody will give them a place to live.

She took possession [of the room], feeling very rich with the hundred dollars Uncle Enos gave her, and delightfully independent, with no milk-pans to scald; no heavy lover to elude; no humdrum district school to imprison her day after day.

For a week she enjoyed her liberty heartily, then set about finding something to do. Her wish was to be a governess, that being the usual refuge for respectable girls who have a living to get. But Christie soon found her want of accomplishments a barrier to success in that line, for the mammas thought less of the solid than of the ornamental branches, and wished their little darlings to learn French before English, music before grammar, and drawing before writing.

So she takes a place as servant. She assumes it’s merely kitchen work, and is surprised when Mr. Stuart asks her to clean his boots. "It isn't the work; it's the degradation; and I won't submit to it," she says to her fellow servant Hepsey, who ran away from slavery five years ago.

She doesn’t mind the job, other than that, even though Mrs. Stuart is a snob. She observes the various party guests and listens to Hepsey’s stories. And there’s a library to read, which proves her downfall. She falls asleep while reading and drops her book and it knocks over the candle.

Sitting up she looked dizzily about her. The smoke was clearing fast, a window having been opened; and the tableau was a striking one. Mr. Stuart with an excited countenance was dancing frantically on a heap of half-consumed clothes pulled from the wall. He had not only drenched them with water from bowl and pitcher, but had also cast those articles upon the pile like extinguishers, and was skipping among the fragments with an agility which contrasted with his stout figure in full evening costume, and his besmirched face, made the sight irresistibly ludicrous.

Mrs. Stuart, though in her most regal array, seemed to have left her dignity downstairs with her opera cloak, for with skirts gathered closely about her, tiara all askew, and face full of fear and anger, she stood upon a chair and scolded like any shrew.

The comic overpowered the tragic, and being a little hysterical with the sudden alarm, Christie broke into a peal of laughter that sealed her fate.

Mrs. Stuart utters a line you may have heard before: “She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”
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This entry was originally posted at https://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/41421.html
17 April 2018 @ 04:19 pm
When Nat (12) arrives at Plumfield a boy sliding down the banister falls off, introduces himself as Tommy Bangs, tells Demi (who’s reading on the stairs) to see to the new boy, and heads back upstairs. They only talk for a minute before Nat gets called in to see Aunt Jo. “Daisy took him by the hand with a pretty protecting air, which made Nat feel at home at once.” Ah, his future wife.

“I am glad to see you, my dear, and hope you’ll be happy here,” says Jo, while Fritz tells him dry off before the fire. At dinner Nat tells Tom how he used to play violin on the streets with his father and a guy named Nicolo until his father died.

Nat plays to great praise, gets a bath, goes to bed, and witnesses the weekly pillowfight. “What a very nice school this is!”

The Boys
Franz is 16, “steady, kind, and patient” and plays the flute. Emil is 14, “quick-tempered, restless, and enterprising, bent on going to sea.” Demi, almost 10 is quiet, serious, and bookish. Daisy takes after her mother, cheerful and domestic.Read more...Collapse )

Next month: Work. Squee.

This entry was originally posted at https://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/40915.html
Alcott’s third or fourth depending on how you count Good Wives novel, featuring cane-shaking, a menage a trois, and America’s favorite fighting Frenchman.

Polly Arrives
Fanny tells Tom to pick up Polly from the station. Tom says "She'll think you cared more about your frizzles than your friends, and she'll be about right, too." Fanny says "If I was the President, I'd make a law to shut up all boys till they were grown; for they certainly are the most provoking toads in the world."

I wonder what Tom means by wearing a thingumbob? A veil maybe? The naughty boy tells Polly the hack-driver is tipsy so he won’t have to sit with her.Read more...Collapse )

Next is Little Men.

This entry was originally posted at https://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/40520.html
21 March 2018 @ 04:33 pm
Laurie's power of persuasion must be a nice thing to have.

You see, having said that if Meg married 'that Brooke' she shouldn't have a cent of her money, Aunt March was rather in a quandary when time had appeased her wrath and made her repent her vow. :DDDDD

"Amy, you are getting altogether too handsome for a single lady." OTP foreshadowing.

Kitty Bryant is mentioned again. Nice continuity.
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Next: An Old-Fashioned Girl

This entry was originally posted at https://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/40112.html
16 March 2018 @ 12:32 pm
If there's only one thing you should understand about Little Women it's that Amy isn't a brat Bhaer is based on Emerson, not Bronson it wasn't her first book. Flower Fables, Hospital Sketches, On Picket Duty and Other Tales, Moods, Morning Glories and other stories, and Proverb Stories were all published before, as well as stories in various magazines and newspapers. The Inheritance, Work, and A Long Fatal Love Chase were written before LW and published after it. Little Women sold very well from the beginning, but it might have sold worse if people hadn't already known her name. The reviews were almost all positive, except for one who thought it wasn't Christian enough.

Playing Pilgrims
Let's note that Beth doesn't like washing dishes and cleaning.

Meg is plump, which people tend to forget.Read more...Collapse )

This entry was originally posted at https://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/39758.html
Alcott spent July 1865 to July 1866 touring Europe, first as a companion to Anna Weld and then on her own. When she returned she found the family once again struggling with money and set right away to making some. "Wrote two long tales for Leslie & got $200 for them. One for Elliott for which he paid $75, also a bit of poetry for $5.00. He wanted a long one in 24 chapters & I wrote it in a fortnight 185 pages, besides work, sewing nursing & company." But when she finished the novel "Elliott would not have it, saying it was too long & too sensational. So I put it away and fell to work on other things."

A Long Fatal Love Chase, originally titled A Modern Mephistopheles, is the story of Rosamund Vivian, an orphan living alone with her grandfather on a British island. After declaring "I'd gladly sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom," grandfather's old friend Phillip Tempest arrives.

ROSAMUND: You're so exciting and mysterious! *hearteyes*
TEMPEST: You're so naive and isolated! *hearteyes*
ROSAMUND: It must be so cool to sail around the world on your yacht.
TEMPEST: Elope with me!

But after a year of happy marriage and sailing, Rosamund learns that Tempest committed bigamy. Instead of letting her leave him, he stalks her around the Continent. This will be my fourth time reading it and it hasn't gotten old. It's both melodramatic pulp fiction and a pretty realistic depiction of domestic violence, starring a brave, determined, and compassionate heroine. Read more...Collapse )

Next: Little Women.

This entry was originally posted at https://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/39606.html
23 February 2018 @ 03:04 pm
According to her journals, Alcott wrote the first the first draft of Moods in August 1860 and edited it the following January. Like Jo in the "Literary Lessons" chapter, Little Women, she was told it was too long and took out ten chapters and shortened some of the others, and it was published in December 1864.

In a letter she wrote "Moods is not what I meant to have it, for I followed bad advice and took out many things which explained my idea and & made the characters more natural & consistent. I see my mistake now for I find myself accused of Spiritualism, Free Love, Affinities and all sorts of horrors I know little about and don't believe in." She meant for the story to be about the trials of a "moody" young girl while most readers interpreted it as a book about marriage. For that I can't blame them - I can see both aspects in it but find the topic of marriage the dominant one.Read more...Collapse )

Next: A Long Fatal Love Chase. Yay, something I like.

This entry was originally posted at https://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/39367.html
18 January 2018 @ 05:08 pm
"It is by no means faultless, but it fastens itself upon the mind and heart of the reader."
-Springfield Daily Republican

"The wit, the humor, the power of brief and vivid description which the volume evinces, will give it a wide popularity."
-The Wide World

"There are some passages in this little volume which will move the heart to tears as irresistibly as the humor of others will move the voice to laughter."
-The New England Farmer

Hospital Sketches (1863) was published first in newspapers and then as a book, to mostly glowing reviews. It is based on Alcott's brief time as a nurse with the names changed. The protagonist is called Tribulation Periwinkle but I couldn't help but refer to her as Louisa.

I'm leaving a lot out of this recap so that if you read it there will still be surprises.

Chapter 1: Obtaining Supplies
The book opens with something I had forgotten - Nurse Periwinkle has two sisters and a brother Tom. Tom suggests she try nursing after she rejects other family suggestions of writing a book, teaching, marrying, and acting. A neighbor introduces her to a nurse and she receives her comission. "A certain dear old lady" cries while saying good-bye to "topsy-turvy Trib."Read more...Collapse )

This entry was originally posted at https://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/38616.html
01 March 2017 @ 01:01 pm
And I saw the first butterfly of the year.

Have finished Hogfather, which is book 20 of 41, so now I am halfway through. Next up is Jingo. I hope Sybil is in it; she wasn't in Feet of Clay.

This entry was originally posted at http://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/35074.html
01 January 2017 @ 12:26 pm
The first book you read in 2016:
Republic of Thieves. That feels like more than a year ago.

The last book you finished in 2016:
Interesting Times. Fitting, no?

The first book you will finish (or did finish!) in 2017:
Hamilton: The Revolution

How many books read in 2016?

Fiction/Non-Fiction ratio?
Just the one about the Irish famine.
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This entry was originally posted at http://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/34665.html
01 December 2016 @ 04:03 pm
Fantastic Beasts was adorable and the new Anne of Green Gables was terrible.

This entry was originally posted at http://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/34430.html
18 November 2016 @ 02:49 pm
100 non-sff books by women
Bold = read, italics = read another book by the same author, strikeout = didn't finish, underline = plan to read

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This entry was originally posted at http://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/34150.html
15 November 2016 @ 01:52 pm
The Amazon ads on Tumblr really want me to buy the Gormenghast books.

Also Chernow and the Hamiltome, but that makes sense; I reblog Hamilton posts. I don't know why Gormenghast.

This entry was originally posted at http://nocowardsoul.dreamwidth.org/33979.html