200 Pages of Tension in The Woman in White

Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) composed the memoriam on his own tombstone,  listing what he considered the singular accomplishment of his life: “AUTHOR OF THE WOMAN IN WHITE.” Collins wrote other famous books–The Moonstone, for example, is considered the first true detective novel– but he will forever be tied to this one serial that was published in … Continue reading

Jo Refuses Laurie

In my final post on Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, I want to focus not on the death of Beth, which is the climax of the novel, but on that peculiar narrative twist that Alcott was so proud of: Laurie doesn’t end up with Jo.  Let’s put this deferred romance in perspective. If you look … Continue reading

Little Women: The Sequel!

So a peculiar packaging issue faces the publisher of Little Women: is it two books or one? Way back in 1868, Part I was titled Little Women and included the first two dozen chapters. Part II was a completely separate book titled Good Wives, and was published a year later after the first volume became … Continue reading

Writing about kids, for kids in Little Women

The premise of this blog is to read “the greatest works of literature.” Looking at that very long reading assignment, compiled and winnowed by twenty-odd “best of” lists from the last hundred years, there’s something glaringly missing: children’s literature. The idea of children’s lit didn’t exist until the 19th century, so it is no fair … Continue reading

New book: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

What is it about 19th century English literature that is so infuriating? I say English literature because, until Walt Whitman and Mark Twain liberated the American tongue, there is little that the amateur student can distinguish between British novelists and American ones. The Americans, in fact, were aspirant imitators of their British peers. Consider how Poe milks … Continue reading