Thursday, August 6, 2009

Little House on the Prairie: poverty, hardship, illegal activities, and politics

(oooh... creepy... I was about to start typing this draft when a young girl approached wanting princess books. I went off to 398.2, and on the top of the shelf was a copy of - you guessed it - Little House on the Prairie!)

There is an excellent article in the latest New Yorker about the Wilder women: Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. It discusses various scholarship about the Little House books and Rose (who was a libertarian and published several political texts). I confess I don't remember reading the books (although I think I did) - I do, of course, remember being hooked on the TV show with Melissa Gilbert and that cad, Michael Landon. I didn't remember that the Ingalls settled illegally at one point on what was Osage tribal land in Kansas (until the feds turfed them out), nor did I remember what is perhaps one of the most offensive quotes from the books, reprinted in the article: "There were no people" on the prairie. "Only Indians lived there." Apparently, this was later changed to read "There were no settlers." How reassuring. I also wasn't aware of the fact that there were seven historical sites and museums devoted to the Little House series and surrounding mythologies - good grief!

I was captivated, and depressed, by Rose's sad story of a neglected childhood, poverty, a travelling bug (just check out the postcards catalogued with her papers alone!), trouble in love (she confessed to exploiting men), and squabbling over writing with her mother. I had no idea she had written what New Yorker writer Thurman considers a "foundational work of political theory," although the debate is certainly still raging on that description.

Anyway, the New Yorker article provided a brief lunchtime reprieve from reading Preacher, a very graphic graphic novel (a few people get shot in the face, someone gets skinned, and that's just for starters...). It was a recommendation by a fellow SL staff member, and it's quite good, just... gory. At home, I am immersed in the lovely novel, A Fortunate Age, about a group of New York friends who are drifting (in various ways) through their twenties (ah, I sympathise!) It's a bit self-absorbed, but somehow less so than The Emperor's Children.

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