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New Leaf Nominations for January 2020 • I'd Rather be Reading: Books about Books
#61  Dazrin 12-06-2019, 11:04 PM
Well, I'm late as has been the case all too often recently so I'm not going to nominate anything new. I will third Original Sin and second A Bookman's Tale though.
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#62  CRussel 12-06-2019, 11:30 PM
Quote Dazrin
Well, I'm late as has been the case all too often recently so I'm not going to nominate anything new. I will third Original Sin and second A Bookman's Tale though.
I've got one ticket left, so I'll third A Bookman's Tale.
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#63  issybird 12-27-2019, 06:04 PM
Quote Catlady
Among the books I considered are these.

Unbuttoning America: A Biography of Peyton Place by Ardis Cameron. I really wanted to nominate this, but in some countries only the audiobook is available, and even where the ebook is available, it's expensive, so I reluctantly passed on it.
Spoiler Warning below






Published in 1956, Peyton Place became a bestseller and a literary phenomenon. A lurid and gripping story of murder, incest, female desire, and social injustice, it was consumed as avidly by readers as it was condemned by critics and the clergy. Its author, Grace Metalious, a housewife who grew up in poverty in a New Hampshire mill town and had aspired to be a writer from childhood, loosely based the novel’s setting, characters, and incidents on real-life places, people, and events. The novel sold more than 30 million copies in hardcover and paperback, and it was adapted into a hit Hollywood film in 1957 and a popular television series that aired from 1964 to 1969. More than half a century later, the term “Peyton Place” is still in circulation as a code for a community harboring sordid secrets.

In Unbuttoning America, Ardis Cameron mines extensive interviews, fan letters, and archival materials including contemporary cartoons and cover images from film posters and foreign editions to tell how the story of a patricide in a small New England village circulated over time and became a cultural phenomenon. She argues that Peyton Place, with its frank discussions of poverty, sexuality, class and ethnic discrimination, and small-town hypocrisy, was more than a tawdry potboiler. Metalious’s depiction of how her three central female characters come to terms with their identity as women and sexual beings anticipated second-wave feminism. More broadly, Cameron asserts, the novel was also part of a larger postwar struggle over belonging and recognition. Fictionalizing contemporary realities, Metalious pushed to the surface the hidden talk and secret rebellions of a generation no longer willing to ignore the disparities and domestic constraints of Cold War America.
Quote Catlady
I nominate Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux (2018, 286 pp.).

I think this would make for an interesting discussion, as Little Women is so familiar--all of us have probably read the book or seen a movie/TV adaptation or at least know the basic story, giving everyone a solid frame of reference for the author's arguments.
I've just finished both of these and I thought both were well worth reading, so two thumbs up. They also made for an interesting juxtaposition; lives of women in New England and the frustrations and limitations imposed on them almost a century apart.

The Peyton Place book was something of a mixed bag, as I thought it resorted to too much jargon in its literary and sociological commentary which made for tough listening. I'm also not entirely convinced that Peyton Place isn't just the trashy page-turner I always thought it, but I'm at least partially persuaded that there's more depth to it and says more about women's lives than I thought. I also found the description of mid-20th century life in New Hampshire fascinating.

And I think I'm on a Little Women kick, as I've also just finished reading this year's book about it, March Sisters. I liked Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy quite a lot; the analysis of LMA's life and the importance of LW was penetrating, although I think perhaps too much time was spent discussing various adaptations which was ultimately not that illuminating. Clearly I need to see the latest film.
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#64  Catlady 12-28-2019, 11:00 AM
Quote issybird
And I think I'm on a Little Women kick, as I've also just finished reading this year's book about it, March Sisters. I liked Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy quite a lot; the analysis of LMA's life and the importance of LW was penetrating, although I think perhaps too much time was spent discussing various adaptations which was ultimately not that illuminating. Clearly I need to see the latest film.
I am bingeing on Little Women because of the new movie, which shakes up the story while being faithful to it. It's wonderful.

So far I've watched five earlier films/TV adaptations (amazed to realize that the 1933 and 1949 versions used the same script and musical score, and neither included Amy burning Jo's stories and falling through the ice!). Now I'm reading The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper--a novel about May Alcott, the model for Amy March. Which I plan to follow up with March by Geraldine Brooks, about Papa March.

After all that, I'll either be sick of all things LW or ready to dive into Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy and The March Sisters!
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#65  issybird 12-28-2019, 01:26 PM
Quote Catlady
So far I've watched five earlier films/TV adaptations (amazed to realize that the 1933 and 1949 versions used the same script and musical score, and neither included Amy burning Jo's stories and falling through the ice!).
I've never been a huge Katharine Hepburn fan as I find her too stagey and mannered and I preferred June Allyson's Jo to Hepburn's for that reason. But la Liz is unfortunate as Amy.

For your reading list (probably not ) there's also a recent graphic novel with an updated version of the story wherein there's a blended family with different races and Jo is gay. As to the latter, I think it would have been more interesting to pick any of the other sisters and by choosing Jo it's playing to a stereotype.
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#66  Catlady 12-28-2019, 04:29 PM
Quote issybird
I've never been a huge Katharine Hepburn fan as I find her too stagey and mannered and I preferred June Allyson's Jo to Hepburn's for that reason. But la Liz is unfortunate as Amy.

For your reading list (probably not ) there's also a recent graphic novel with an updated version of the story wherein there's a blended family with different races and Jo is gay. As to the latter, I think it would have been more interesting to pick any of the other sisters and by choosing Jo it's playing to a stereotype.
Hepburn could be a bit much in her early roles especially, but I think her characterization here fits Jo; I noticed that she would make grand pronouncements when Jo was deliberately being the misfit tomboy and then drop to a more natural voice when Jo was being real. I like her much better than Allyson. Other than Allyson, I tended to like the cast in the 1949 version better; part of it might be based on their being more familiar. I do like Liz as Amy, though it's jarring to have her as older than Beth. Wouldn't it have been fun to see her fall through the ice?

The new film's Jo (Saoirse Ronan) is outstanding--funny, smart, independent, believable.

As for the graphic novel you mentioned, I think I'll pass. Ditto for Little Vampire Women. But I did request last year's updated LW movie from my library when it came up in a search.
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#67  Twitchly 12-29-2019, 11:13 PM
Quote issybird
To offset The Library Book, I'd like to mention another book that fits the theme but is too short for a club discussion. I was totally charmed by The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, which is the account of how Elizabeth II discovered reading. Very funny and insightful, it made my ten-best list the year I read it.
Oooh! That one looks fun. Adding it to my library list now.
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#68  Catlady 01-06-2020, 04:16 PM
Little Women binge continues. I've now listened to Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy and read March Sisters. I was disappointed in the latter; the essays seemed to be more about their respective authors than about LW. The former was fun, though, especially because I'd just watched so many of the film adaptations.

Now I've just come across a novel called The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott and borrowed the audiobook. And I'm waiting for Louisa on the Front Lines, nonfiction about Alcott's Civil War nursing.
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#69  issybird 01-06-2020, 04:46 PM
Quote Catlady
Little Women binge continues. I've now listened to Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy and read March Sisters. I was disappointed in the latter; the essays seemed to be more about their respective authors than about LW. The former was fun, though, especially because I'd just watched so many of the film adaptations.
I essentially agree with you about March Sisters; it was skimpy overall. The Meg essay in particular disappointed. However, it was refreshing to read an anti-Jo screed and the essays on Beth and Amy added depth both to their characters and my understanding of them.
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#70  Catlady 01-06-2020, 05:00 PM
Quote issybird
I essentially agree with you about March Sisters; it was skimpy overall. The Meg essay in particular disappointed. However, it was refreshing to read an anti-Jo screed and the essays on Beth and Amy added depth both to their characters and my understanding of them.
If I hadn't seen the portrayal of Amy in Greta Gerwig's new film, and if I hadn't read The Other Alcott about Louisa's sister May, I might have found the Amy section more revelatory. As it was, I kept being annoyed by the author inserting herself into the situations she wrote about--I didn't care what Jane Smiley would have done!
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