Little Daleks (and giveaway)

Little Daleks

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, a book containing one of those scenes which sear themselves into my memory – the death of the bird when the girls are allowed to do as they please on their holidays and forget to take care of it. It was scarring and awful scene, because it was such an obvious, inevitable, unexpected, Lord of the Flies thing to happen. To many readers the book seems to be a hoops-and-bonnets fantasy. But while it taught me to do my chores (as What Katy Did taught me to give explanations for rules), and while I like Little Women much more than Lord of the Flies, and can forgive it a great deal for the collapsing bed and “Rodrigo! Save me!”, I cannot quite consider the novel without that memory, or consider the March girls aside from that momentous, careless cruelty.

An element of gritty reality underlies the charm (the teasing, the burned hair, the lost love). It is absent from (best-beloved) near-contemporary What Katy Did (1872 to Little Women’s 1868-9), for all its squabbles and games, and from the Little House Books (published in the 1930s recollecting the 1870s) where consequences come from outside forces and the best intentions of human effort seem to dissipate in locusts, blizzards, sickness and fire. Absent too from Anne of Green Gables’ cringing embarrassments (1908), and from Seven Little Australians (1894) which contains larger tragedies but which (in spite of laundering) most helpless animals survive. 

This, too, is the reason that I did not care for the latest Pride and Prejudice movie as Pride and Prejudice. P&P is about veneers, manners, appearances and trying to live and love through and in spite of them (oh, that one beautiful sentence about Lizzie and her aunt not talking as they leave Pemberley). The movie showed mud and pigs and sweat and pores, and the fantasy of muslin and carriages and plumes suspended above all that. And I still think, as I said when the first promotional pictures came out, that for Pride and Prejudice it is a very good Little Women! (And for the record: best Lizzie = Jennifer Ehle (that smile!), best Darcy = Laurence Olivier (spoiled boy), best Mrs Bennett = Alex Kingston (darling), best Mr Collins = Nitin Ganatra (no life without wife)).

In other news: Giveaway! Rowena Cory Daniells interviewed me on art and writing, and there is a chance to get a Dalek drawing of your very own.

 

Dalek of Green Gables

Dalek of Green Gables

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. I used to struggle with that book and the miniseries. My whole family loved it, but I do not like watching people inevitably humiliate themselves. I cringe for them, and it took a long time for me to get past Anne’s various outbursts (I had the same problem with the movie The Castle). In particular, I couldn’t stay to watch when she hits Gilbert with her slate. I also resented the “write what you know” message in both Anne and other books, such as What Katy Did (although, having since read actual Gothic fiction, the advice in both cases was extremely well placed).

A combination of aversion therapy and self-reflection eventually got me to the point where I now think the story beautiful – I read it out loud to my father a few years ago and by the end we were both in tears. My mother walked through the room from time to time and laughed at us.

Rodrigo! Rodrigo! Save me!

I make a point of reading everyday, and sometimes on weekends when I don’t want to read a book I associate with bus travel and coffee in McDonalds, I pick up odd volumes at home – Labyrinth manga, histories of King John and bound volumes of Windsor Magazine. As a result of which I am left cold by internal inconsistencies, fascinated and frustrated by introductions to books that keep sinking down in the pile of Books to Read and calling friends and saying “Oh. My. Word!”

Oh. My. Word.
This last is because the story I read this weekend was just the sort of story that Anne Shirley and Katy Carr and The Story Girl and Jo March and their friends-and-relations read and wrote and swooned over and learned through the trials of life not to write anymore. Exactly.

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