Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New biography of Louisa May Alcott.

Just in time for Louisa May Alcott's birthday on November 29th, Julia M. Klein reviews Harriet Reisen's new Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women in Obit magazine and mentions that the PBS program American Masters on December 28 will focus on Alcott.

I've always enjoyed Alcott's sense of humor and penetrating eye. In 1942, scholars Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern discovered Alcott's hidden history as a writer of "blood and thunder" tales when they compared entries in Alcott's account books to published stories and so linked the A. M. Barnard pseudonym to Alcott. As I wrote in Deadly Women, these stories have lurid content such as drug addiction and murder; and A Long Fatal Love Chase, considered too sensational to be published in Alcott's lifetime, has the modern themes of domestic abuse and stalking. Klein cites Alcott's "thirst for adventure" in penning such tales; as Alcott wrote about one story, "Enjoyed doing it, being tired of providing moral pap for the young."

Klein mentions that Alcott may have suffered from lupus, but it was my understanding that mercury—the treatment for the typhoid pneumonia Alcott contracted as a Civil War nurse—likely contributed to her death some 20 years later.

About the photo: Louisa May Alcott, NYPL.

No comments: