Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Why I refuse to see War of the Worlds and the summer of Alcott

"War of the Worlds" opens tommorrow and I'm not seeing it this weekend for the following reasons:(a)sick to death of Tom "Crazy" Cruise and his media rantings and (b)am no longer impressed by Steven Spielberg. The Tom Cruise thing,I'm not alone on(pretty sure)-the man can believe that all shrinks are evil Nazi people bent on addicting the citizens of the world to bad,bad pills,that's his right as an American. But,when you pick fights with morning talk show hosts,that's just career suicide,IMO.

Calling Matt Lauer glib on the Today show is like going on the Macneil-Leher Hour and calling the host"brainy"-a big old DUH! right at ya,fella. I don't even watch the Today show or most morning news program(F/X shows repeats of Buffy for 2 hours,which is a much healther way to start the day,even if you only watch 40 minutes worth)but for folks promoting their big summer movies,that's your bread and butter you are knocking off the table.

Also,Spielberg and big action movies just don't have the same popcorny flavor they use to-granted,Spielberg is not as far gone as George"The Ultra-Revisionist" Lucas but going thru the motions is the theme I get from having seen the WOTW trailer so many times. For a long time,Spielberg was chasing that Oscar gold and now that he's achieved it,he seems over and done with the razzle-dazzle. Hard to put it in words but this weekend,I'll just see Batman Begins for the second time(gonna watch in IMAX,a new experience for me)and wait for the Fantastic Four(which really should've been released for the July 4th but guess the studio didn't want to be too obvious).

One of my Summer Reading goals(yes,I'm one of those people who make reading lists but don't always complete them)is to read Lousia May Alcott in the new Library of America edition. This is the third copy of Little Women that I own and you may well ask"Why do you need 3 copies of the same book?" I don't need 3 but each copy has it's differences and special meaning to me. My first copy of LW was given to me for Christmas in 1977 by my Aunt Sharon(I remember the date because she inscribed the book to me which is how I learned about inscribing)and it's an Illustrated Junior Library copy. I sell this edition at my store and have told potential customers how well it holds up. My copy is abit worn out(just added glue to the binding after looking into it a few minutes ago)but still in readable condition. The color plate illustrations are pretty but not too sticky sweet and yes,it is the "whole book". Folks see the Junior Library label and think it's some watered down version(which many people do look for).

My second copy is a Modern Library paperback-I tend to read books about books and many times,I'll come across someone dissing Modern Library editions. I don't know why-perhaps they were not up to par at one time but the ones I have are really nice and I love the paperbacks(yes,I have a complete JA set in Modern Library paperback). The paperbacks have commentary or rather,essays about the author from scholars of the period(the ML Dracula has a Sigmund Freud essay). The ML Little Women has commentary from G.K. Chesterton,Katherine Fullerton Gerould and Madeline Stern,who discovered Alcott's though- to- be- long -lost thrillers and helped them get reprints. I must confess that I didn't read A Long Fatal Love Chase or The Inheritance,despite the press and good reviews-at that time,Louisa May was still just the author of the March girls,in my heart.

I reread LW after 9/11 and it was comfort food for me then. Atleast it wasn't the mental version of Doritos (use to abuse those suckers)-Little Women is like going home to a Sunday dinner of roast beef with potatoes(no gravy,I hate gravy). It's good old fashioned fare and some might find it dull but not every roast beef is same . One of the joys of reading is catching the nuances that you missed the first,second or tenth time out.

This Library of American copy I'm reading now helps me to see that. I find that many of the scruples passed down in the storyline are actually pretty good advice,even for today. For example,Meg has trouble at home,shutting her husband out of her life with their twins,Daisy and Demi so much that he goes over to his friend's house after work most of the time and feels unconnected to his family. Meg starts to get lonely so she asks Marmee(hard to believe that kids called their mother such a name but then again,Jo would probaly balk at the term "Mom"as not respectful and any faithfull reader knows how unconventional she was at times)what to do. Her advice? I'll let the lady speak for herself(slightly abridged):

"This is just the time,Meg,when young married people are apt to grow apart and the very time when they ought to be most together;for the first tenderness soon wears off,unless care is taken to preserve it;and no time is so beautiful and precious to parents ,as the first years of the little lives given to them to train. Don't let John be a stranger to the babies,for they will do more to keep him safe and happy in this world of trial and temptation,than anything else and through them,you will learn to know and love one another as you should."

Marmee also encourages Meg to take interest in life outside the home by keeping up to date on things and going out with her husband for an evening once in awhile. Now tell me that the SuperNanny,The Nannys 911 or Dr. Phil don't give the same type of recommendation to parents today! Feminists may cringe at such happy homemaker pep talk but it does work-later in the chapter,John takes over putting his reluctant son to bed and I got shades of many a Nanny 911 episode. No,I don't have kids but I do watch these shows with my mom(a no nonsense but good natured,down to earth lady)and wind up agreeing with the nannies many a time.

Homespun wisdom is not why I bought a new copy of LW;this one has the follow-up books Little Men and Jo's Boys included,which I've never read. I tend to read several books at a time and usually put them in the following catagories: Fiction,Nonfiction,Classic ,Reread and Brain Candy. The Alcott trilogy fills two slot for the price of one-Classic and Reread. LOA editions are well made but I find the covers to be drab;jet black with a mugshot picture of the author. You're not supposed to judge books by the cover but I find that a cover can really make or break a book.

Most modern covers are uberdesigned to attract the eye but many are misleading(particularly with chick lit titles,all that pink and shopping /cartoony imagery can make you sick to your stomach) or project an image that's intimidating(compare the American cover of Ian Mc Ewan's Saturday to the British one and you'll see what I mean). In terms of style,the Modern Library paperbacks look prettier(the hardcovers are similar to LOA,only with golden brown background color instead of the basic black) -that doesn't make them better,of course.

Anyway,before I go off on another tangent,let me just say that LW is the grandmother of chick lit(ok,great grand-mother) and should not be written off as a morality tale or kiddie fare. After all,it's the story of four sisters trying to figure out life,love and how to achieve true happiness while dealing with the harsh realites of the world-tell me that those themes aren't in many of the female friendly novels of today and I will just duck as your nose grows longer and longer.

Love to all,
Lady T

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