Summer Conversational Series for Wednesday, July 15

Wednesday’s presentations proved to be lively, poignant and brain-busting!

gabrielle-jeannine-kristi

L to R, Gabrielle Donnelly, Jeannine Atkins and Kristi Martin

Gabrielle Donnelly, author of The Little Women Letters, spoke on Louisa’s trips to Europe in her presentation titled, “Our Foreign Correspondent Louisa May Alcott’s Travels Through Europe.” She read extensively from Shawl Straps (Aunt Jo’s Scrap-Bag) and had the room in stitches. Gabrielle has a unique quality for tapping into Louisa’s humor; she read descriptions of various people Louisa met on the train and the writing literally leaped off of the pages! She also offered wonderful insight regarding themes in Little Women and the complex relationship between Louisa and youngest sibling May.

little woman in blueJeannine Atkins continued on the theme of May with her presentation, “May Alcott Painting a Way Home.” Jeannine has written a splendid historical fiction novel about May which will be coming out this September; it is titled Little Woman in Blue. Her talk featured many of May’s sketches from Concord Sketches, a book that can only be viewed in the Special Collections at the Concord Public Library. She continued on the theme of sibling rivalry, focusing on the dynamic between older and younger sister. In a poignant ending to her talk, Jeannine read Louisa’s poem, “Our Madonna;” Jeannine was not the only one with a lump in her throat after that reading.

Kristi Martin presented a scholarly paper on “The Wilderness of Books Literary Concord,” drawing a history of how Concord came to be the home of so many distinguished authors, and how the homes of these writers became museums, attracting people from around the world. Kristi brings a unique experience to her work having been a tour guide at just about all the house museums in Concord. Her knowledge is vast and the presentation dense with wonderful information. Unfortunately my slow brain could not take notes fast enough so I only offer a general summary of this fine talk.

Here are my notes from Wednesday: notes for wednesday 7-15-15

Steven Burby was kind enough to send along his presentation that he gave on Monday; I will read it over on Friday and comment on it.

Unfortunately I cannot attend the Thursday presentation by John Matteson; if anyone has notes they wish to share please send them to me at louisamayalcottismypassion@gmail.com.

I do have a little surprise however which I will post tomorrow.

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Summer Conversational Series taking place this week

The Summer Conversational Series is taking place all this week at Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House. The theme is “Heaven in the Mind:” The Spirit of Place in Transcendental Concord. I will be going to the Tuesday and Wednesday sessions.

3schoolpath

I believe registration is still open–here is information on topics and who is presenting (scroll down a bit to see).

Last year I was remiss in not sharing all that I learned at the series because frankly, I was awash in notes! It occurred to me that all I really need to do is summarize and make my notes available to you for download. That is what I will be doing this year so that you will not miss out.

A call out to those of you attending:

If you are taking notes, could you please share them with me so I can, in turn, share them with all of you? I would love to have all the days covered. Write to me at louisamayalcottismypassion@gmail.com.

Notes from 2014

Rose_Peckham_-_Abigail_May_Alcott_Nieriker_(d._1879)I include here all of last year’s notes for your perusal–Notes from Summer Conversational Series 2014. These include notes from other participants who graciously sent their notes to me. One of my favorite presentations which I wish I had written about was Anne-Laure Francois’ excellent talk on May Alcott–now you can see for yourself.

This is my fourth year attending the series; it is the highlight of my summer. Getting together with Alcott friends is the best!

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Rose in Bloom: Endings and beginnings

I am glad that I somehow got the idea from another blog that Mac and Rose did not get together. It pained me to see how Mac wooed her and she would not give in. When he shared his Thoreau essays with her and found them well received, it pained me again. So you can imagine my surprise and joy when in fact, the story of Rose in Bloom ended exactly as I hoped it would.

Thoreau yet again

thoreauI had to smile at the injection of Henry David Thoreau into the story. Louisa was not shy in showing her immense admiration of the man. I think Mac was the best representation yet of Thoreau—a seeker both intellectually and spiritually. Mac was a Thoreau who grew into the idea of sharing his life with a woman and finding happiness and fulfillment in that relationship.

Perfect pairings but no perfect marriages

While David Sterling was also a Thoreau-like figure who gave his life to Christie Devon in Work A Story of Experience, there was something more satisfying to me about Mac. Louisa, however, never took the relationships beyond the marrying: David was killed off in the Civil War, and Rose in Bloom ended with Mac and Rose agreeing to marry. I realize that Louisa, having never married herself, perhaps did not feel qualified to explore marriage but I would have like to have seen her ideal of marriage played out. She certainly did a fine job of describing Meg’s marriage to John (particularly when it came to raising the babies).

Justice for Phebe

Phebe was finally accepted into the family because of her care of Uncle Alec during his illness. It’s unfortunate that she had to prove her worth in order to be accepted, considering the fact that she was already worthy despite not coming from a noted family. I was glad to see that Aunt Plenty came around although I had to wonder if she would have had Uncle Alec not survived.

phebe and alec

Love and genius

So all was well that ended well. I enjoyed Rose in Bloom very much with its overall theme of talent versus genius and the conclusion that one could be a genius at things not associated with the fine arts (in Rose’s case, in giving to others). Dr. Cathlin Davis was indeed correct about Louisa’s premise that love was the necessary element to spark true genius as love prods us to move beyond ourselves to something bigger.

Becoming a single parent

from alcott.net

from alcott.net

Adult issues such as alcoholism (see previous post) and single parenthood were also explored. Louisa had a remarkable talent for introducing potentially controversial issues in such a stealth manner such that one never notices they are in fact controversial; it was part of her own genius. It’s interesting to me that she introduced the idea of a single woman adopting a child before she had done it herself with Lulu. It reveals a longing that May’s tragic death was able to fulfill.

Rose in Bloom was a satisfying read and I thank everyone here who so heartily recommended it. You, dear readers, are the experts on Louisa’s canon and I appreciate you educating me.

Which book shall we discuss next? Leave a comment with your suggestion.

 

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Louisa Links of the Week (formerly known as Fun and Fascinating Links)

Lots of great links this week!

Through the month of May, the Concord Public Library is celebrating 160 years of Flower Fables, Louisa May Alcott’s first book. They will have displays (including the first edition of the book), children’s activities and a visit with “Louisa” herself in the form of Jan Turnquist, executive director of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House. come and join in the fun!  Go to the Events page for more details.

Flower Fables, original printing 1855, from the Concord Free Public Library Special Collections; used with permission

Flower Fables, original printing 1855, from the Concord Free Public Library Special Collections; used with permission

On a wonderful site called “Stuff You Missed in History Class” is a podcast about Bronson Alcott and May Alcott Nieriker.

bronson and may

And here is a re-broadcast from the BBC about the life of Louisa. The program is called “Great Lives”, which asks a guest to choose their hero from history and then brings in an expert to talk about the person. Thanks to Hilary from England for this link.

Finally, two new episodes from The March Family Letters:

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An exciting first! The announcement of a novel about May Alcott by Jeannine Atkins

susanwbailey:

This is big news – the first of its kind – a novel about May Alcott! And from one of our readers, Jeannine Atkins, author of several books including her most recent, Views from a Window Seat and Becoming Little Women (see previous post). Congratulations, Jeannine, we can hardly wait!

jeannine atkins books

Originally posted on Views from a Window Seat:

I’m in full dream-come-true mode as I announce that LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE: A NOVEL OF MAY ALCOTT will be published by She Writes Press in fall 2015.

My fascination with the youngest Alcott sister began when I was a girl playing Little Women with two friends and my older sister, who claimed the role of Jo March. I also wanted to get my hands ink-stained and eat apples in a garret, but I didn’t see what was so wrong with liking clothes or handsome boys, too. As years passed and I learned about point of view, I wondered how much the portrait of May changed to Amy in Little Women was developed from the lens of an older sister, who might have been jealous of an independent girl who didn’t feel as strong a need to please their parents.

The many writers of nineteenth century Concord gave me plenty…

View original 226 more words

May Alcott’s “Gay Paree”

Charline Bourdin of the Louisa May Alcott En France blog just sent me the most charming pictures of summertime Paris and Meudon where May Alcott Nieriker lived in the 1870s. Seeing these pictures gave me such a rush and I could see why May was so inspired. I traveled to this area as a teenager and it brought back a flood of wonderful memories. How I would love to visit this place now, knowing May walked those streets. Come walk with me …

560 Notre Dame

Notre Dame

560 Montmartre (1)

Montmatre in the distance

560 Montmartre

Montmatre neighborhood where May Alcott walked

560 Montmartre (2)

Montmartre neighborhood

560 Etang de Meudon

Etang de Meudon – did May Alcott paint or sketch this beautiful scene?

Thanks Charline!

 

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“I Will Remember You:” a video and musical tribute to Louisa May Alcott and her sister Lizzie

louisa and lizzieI created this video in tribute to these two special ladies in our lives. In a previous post I had mentioned how Louisa and Lizzie had changed my life; thus I put together this song and video in tribute.

Enjoy and spread it around!

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