I’m about a quarter of the way through Caroline Ticknor’s May Alcott A Memoir and wanted to comment on it here as I read it. Already I’m finding things of interest.
1. I knew that Alfred Whitman was part of her inspiration for Laurie in Little Women, but I didn’t realize how close the friendship was between him and Louisa.
2. I believe that Louisa was conflicted about many things in her life and that her life was a series of contradictions. You read in her journal how much she enjoys giving pretty things to May and comments on May’s good fortune, but at the same time there’s an air of self-pity and resentment about it too. As Harriet Reisen pointed out in her bio, Louisa never seemed to notice how many people she had helping her out! Everyone who knows Louisa knows the company she kept.
3. Ms. Ticknor romanticizes many things in her memoir (especially the way she glossed over Lizzie’s death, goodness!). This paragraph especially got to me:
May loved the things of life, and their possession brought her a joy so genuine that it fairly radiated from her, and shed its brightness on all about her, and their relinquishment, or any Louisa cared for things only when she knew they would contribute tofailure to attain them, meant bitter disappointment; whereas Louisa cared for things only when she knew they would contribute to some one’s happiness and comfort.
Essentially she glorifies selfishness while at the same time, romanticizes Louisa’s sacrifices (which though given from the heart, were not always given without some edge to them).
I’m sure that May had a natural charisma and grace which glossed over her faults; I imagine she was extremely likable. She seemed to have a very open and loving heart. What’s there not to like?
4. I do love reading about May’s single mindedness about her pursuit of art. She understood her vocation, cherished it, and willed it to grow. She didn’t seem to compartmentalize her life – art and beauty infused her entire life. I envy that in her and wish I could pursue my music with the same confidence. I’m more like Louisa, always conflicted!
I look forward to getting to know May better as Amy in Little Women.
I hope you enjoy these insights. If any of you out there have read May Alcott A Memoir, share your thoughts, I’d love to read them.