Wednesday, March 07, 2007

More thoughts on "The Ghost in the Little House"

Since my last post about approaching this book with an open mind I have gone from loving the book to being disappointed. I have never experienced such joy and sorrow over learning something new.

This is the only biography of Rose Wilder Lane that I am aware of. From what I've read she certainly had an interesting life full of travels and writing. While I had heard about Let the Hurricane Roar and Free Land, I did not know they were written with her Ingalls grandparents and her father respectively as the inspiration behind these two stories. I am overjoyed to learn this much about my favorite family.

I am at a point where Laura's writing career is well underway. She has written and published Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy, and On the Banks of Plum Creek. But the success of these novels is all attributed to Rose in Holtz's book. He gives Laura little, if no credit, in the writing of them. Where earlier Rose complained over the clogging details her mother included, now she says Laura has not included enough details. And nowhere does Holtz mention Laura's work for the local newspaper.

It would be difficult to prove his point--Rose is the co-author of the Little House series--if he did not discredit Wilder in some way, but there is one comment that turned me off entirely.

Free Land, which was a great success for Rose, gained her fame and fortune like she had never known. It was an eight-installment series which ran in the Saturday Evening Post over a two-month period. The hero of this series, David Beaton, "pits his courage, skill, and endurance against the Dakota plains in the effort to make a farm for his wife and children." We already know that this story is based upon her father's life. During the writing of Free Land, Rose--who now lived in New York City-- corresponded with her father, asking him all types of questions so that she could authenticate the narrative.

One page 281 of Holtz's book it states, "...Rose had gone to some lengths to avoid a facile optimism. Young David's early marriage, a cliche of romance, turns out to be a mistake of the heart, but one he resigns himself to live with." As a reader who already knows this if the life of Almanzo Wilder, this portion of the text infers Almanzo saw marrying Laura as a mistake.

If I had no prior knowledge of the Wilders this comment would have elicited no response--except perhaps pity. But I have been studying the Wilders and their families for years. Through Laura's own books as well as those written about her, I have learned that while life was never easy for the Wilders, they stuck it out and eventually lived more comfortably. Farming life was hard, especially after Almanzo's stroke; and they suffered the loss of a child, a home, and most of their personal belongings in the early years of their marriage. But this comment seems to add one more loss to all the hardships they endured together.

Perhaps it is the hopeless romantic in me which sees them as madly in love with each other or the glossed over version of their life which I watched as a child every Monday night on Michael Landon's Little House on the Prairie which clouds my judgment. All marriages weren't happy--even back then.

I've tossed it around in my head several times since reading this passage the other night and I can't get away from the feeling that this comment is only there to further substantiate the claims that Laura was not a very nice person. I felt it an unneccessary dig at an icon of children's literature whose abilities have continually been called into question by the author.

Yet still, I have to admire a piece of work which challenges me to think differently about a topic which I am familiar with. Not that I am ready to say I believe Holtz's claims that Rose should be credited as co-author of the Little House books. I am no closer to thinking that than I was when I first started. But I still have over 180 pages left to convince me. I have to admit I can't wait to sit down and read it every night so I can learn more about Rose and her writing career. I can relate to her bouts of insecurity and desire to write something more of substance than articles for Country Gentleman or editing her "mother's damn juvenille" as she often called it. And isn't that what all writers strive for--to keep their readers interested and get them to relate to their characters? I am willing to call Holtz's book a success from that perspective.

Cheryl

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13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no plans in reading this book. I respect Laura too much and don't care to read stuff like that about her. If it is true, I will live in happy ignorance.
Marilyn

8:05 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

I understand exactly what you're saying Marilyn. That is one of the reasons it took me so long to buy the book. I'm not sure I was really as ready as I thought, but I'm desperately trying to be objective.

Thanks for stopping by.

Cheryl

3:37 PM  
Blogger Sadie said...

First off, love the new layout ;) Much softer on the eyes.

Second...I, personally, probably do not know *quite* as much about Laura as you do, as I haven't studied her, or new books about her, in many years. I did use to be obsessed w/ researching her and her writing and true family life. I even wrote a paper comparing her real life to the books.

I also never watched the TV series past the first couple of seasons because I HATED that they were soooo different than the books and Laura's life. I've waited desperately for a movie (Tv-version or otherwise) that depicted her life more truly.

All of that being said (I AM long-winded, aren't I?:P)...I doubt I will ever read this book for the reasons you state you dislike it.

I don't believe that Laura was an angel by any means. She was raised tough - "stout as a little French Horse" wasn't it? - and I always saw her as tough, but fair...just like I saw Caroline. She probably parented tough, too...but I would have a hard time seeing her as depicted as a terrible mother, AND writer. I hate to tell Holtz this...but if Rose was trying to edit out her "mother's damn juvenille", the books are still more juvenille than adult. They aren't complex novels, but they are wonderful tales of what happened. Perhaps there's more to it than that, but w/o the original manuscripts (which I'd expect to see a copy of to prove Holtz's claims)...I can't believe that Rose had to alter everything enough to claim a co-author credit. Besides, many editors do help reform a novel in many ways...do they get co-author credits?

Secondly, this apparent hatred Rose had for her own mother...and the implied dissatisfaction of Almonzo? That would never sit well with me. At all. While I haven't delved super deep into her later life (I was getting there when the research stopped because of my own real life), I can't imagine such a thing. I doubt they were hopelessly in love and devoted all of their days...but I do believe they loved each other strongly...and to even hint at a relationship that not even Rose could truly fully know goes beyond Holtz's aims.

It seems to me from what you've said of this book that it is little more than an attempt to bolster his own theories by tearing down a person that he never knew. A person that is loved and respected by children (and children-now-grown) that have loved LIW and her stories for years. That is not good research and writing...that makes me believe he is making unsubstantiated claims and need conjecture to ground them...instead of facts.

But, that's just my opinion. Was it long enough for you?

3:41 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

I love your detailed posts, so no worries there Sadie. Glad you like the new look of the blog. I felt it worked better with the new template on my website.

That is so neat that you wrote a paper on her real life versus the books. I have a webmaster who might be interested in it if you like. No pay, but would give readers a different perspective.

I agree that Laura was no saint, but I feel Holtz really goes out of his way to make her out to be an unkind person, which has nothing to do with her writing.

Rose did lots of ghostwriting in her time, but this form of writing had a stigma attached to it back then (according to the book) and she didn't want it to be known that she was involved in these projects.

I'm not sure if there are actual excerpts from Laura's manuscripts versus the published book. I seem to remember one, but I can't find it right now. Maybe there will be more as I move along through the rest of the book.

It seems to me (without having read Rose's articles or stories) that Rose was an excellent writer with her own successes. Why it is necessary to take away from her mother's fame too, is beyond me.

Cheryl

5:12 PM  
Blogger Sadie said...

The paper on her real life vs. the books is quite old...but I'll dig it out and look it over. I used the one remaining biography I have..."Laura" by Zochert for it. It may be something for me to revisit *LOL* My teacher didn't like it...but she totally ignored the point of it (It was reverse chronology), and she didn't care for LIW (I found out later *LOL*). Likke I said, though...the paper is quite old, about 13 years old, but I should still have it (there are times it's good to be a packrat ;) )

10:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, I just discovered your blog today by following a post on prairie talk. Here's what strikes me, the writer in question depicting Laura Ingalls Wilder as a less than kind individual may be doing so in part simply to have a different take on her. Most daughters have a somewhat difficult relationship with their mothers, heaven knows I do. If I were to comment about my own mother candidly (as the author seems to be drawing from Rose's correspondence), my comments would be primarily about the faults I perceive. This is not, however, because my own mother is nothing but a compilation of faults, but rather that a mother/dauther relationship has its issues and frankly because it is not often that we sit down to catalogue someone's merits. It's the "everyone dislikes their best friend's husband" syndrome, not because he is unlikable, but because we tend to talk about what bothers us.

Part of the reason I'm commenting is because of the writer's comments regarding the Wilder marriage. I do think they probably went through the stresses and strains of any relationship. That said, I find it patently unbelievable that any father would indicate to his daughter that marrying her mother was in anyway a mistake. If in an unguarded moment Almanzo even vaguely indicated that, it doesn't make it true across the board. It could have been during a stressful period, a period of illness, or frankly during a disagreement with his wife.

I'm very happily married myself, but there have been moments over the years where if you caught me at just the wrong time I might have made a comment that indicated that I wasn't. It wouldn't make it true.

I feel that the writer is being extremely unfair, or is woefully ignorant of family relationships across the board. Strong willed people argue, and have points of contention. Rose, Laura, and Almanzo were all strong willed. However, to seek to define their entire relationship based on any regret perhaps shared in the spur of a moment, is quite silly.

I hope this book did not permanently alter your views on the Wilder marriage. The truth can never be known by anyone but the participants. That said? They were married for many, many years, providing them both with countless opportunities to ponder a thought - then discard it.

I can't help but wonder if the author is not being highly selective, and willfully blind in his determinations of the Wilder marriage. The evidence of a decades long marriage alone, with evidently little proof that either was dissatisfied is enough to call into question his reasons for making such a statement.

In other words, something sensational, or a controversial point of view is far more likely to generate new interest. Prepare the sackfuls of salt because the man has a reason to have a contrary view. Book sales.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Thanks for your insightful and detailed post. You could be correct in that Holtz used mostly Rose's private papers to create his version of Laura. It is obvious from anything written about them that the two women did not get along a majority of the time.

I, too, have a difficult time believing that Almanzo would have been as candid with Rose about his relationship with Laura. No one expects everything in married life to be always rosy, but I can't see a man as quiet as Almanzo sharing that kind of feeling with his daughter.

Not this book, nor any other could change the way I feel about the Wilders. I have been interested in their lives for too long to be easily persuaded. And like you said, no one other than Laura and Almazo know what it was really like. We do know they suffered great hardships, but we also know they experienced a comfortable life after Laura's books were published. Anything else can only be conjecture.

I hope that Holtz did not only write the book to be controversial. He claims to have wanted to set the record straight. I'm not positive that he has done that, but I do feel after reading "The Ghost in the Little House" that Rose had a very interesting life. She had a great way of capturing human emotions on paper. And maybe one day, someone will tell Rose's story without feeling the need to discredit her mother in the process.

Thank you for stopping by my blog.

Cheryl

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Cheryl, I had stopped by yesterday and came back today to add a few thoughts. Also to tell you that I am currently expecting shipment on another LIW biography, in the review it was stated that the author did present Laura and Roses' relationship, but had made every attempt to try and see it from both sides. That phrase alone in the review had me clicking "add to cart" because it may not be TGILH's author's interest in book sales. It may be a simple case of only being able to judge from one side since LIW's correspondence was not available, or in existence.

Rose and Laura's relationship was not an easy one, that much I do know. Off the top of my head I can think of many factors that would have contributed to that but as you commented elsewhere in your blog, Rose went to some length to maintain the "fiction" that LIW's stories were, in fact, her own.

You're a writer, I see. Imagine now that you are in an editing process with a parent with whom you have a sticky relationship. If that entire endeavor did not move Rose to wish to take sole credit for the books when the opportunity presented itself, I can't imagine what would have. Editing of multiple manuscripts? Heavens, it's a miracle that there were any survivors. One of the golden rules ought to be, "Thou shalt not edit for family members." It's a recipe for stress induced migraines.

Also, as a writer you know that authors tell you as much about themselves as they do about their subject when they set out to tell a tale. So, just as you and I insist upon keeping our view of the Wilder marriage, he probably walked in the door with a notion as to what he believed, and his reason for writing the book seems to be that he felt Rose was not given proper due. In my case for personal reasons, I view the Wilder marriage from my own preferred standpoint. Long abiding love appeals to me, and when I can believe it of two people I admire, I will cling to that. Perhaps the concept was simply less appealing to this author, so he approached it with a jaded eye. Again, that is something he would know, and I am simply guessing. Still, he put forward the implication and as it pertains little to Rose's co-authorship (if that was what it was)I can only surmise that he had his own reasons, whatever they may be.

Rose lived a truly remarkable life, and I know there is evidence that she butted heads with her mother, and seemed to have a tremendous respect for her father. It is entirely possible that she projected some of her feelings of frustration with her mother, onto her father, assigning them to him.

You and I live in an age where we are encouraged to own our feelings. In the course of an arugment we are far more likely to make "I" statements. "I'm so frustrated..." instead of, "You are just being so pigheaded..." You know the drill, assigning others responsibility for what we feel ourselves. We live in the age where personal accountablity for feelings is stressed. Rose grew up in a world where feelings were seldom openly discussed, and just that frustration alone must have been difficult to bear. I can't imagine it helped the situation.

There is personal truth and universal truth, and sometimes the two do not resemble each other closely. Rose was speaking from her own personal truth, as most of us do.

I mentioned my mother, and again have to grin at the thought of what people would find in my personal correspondence about her. The truth is that my mother is kind, generous, smart and (for me) beyond difficult with which to deal!

We are all of us a study in duality. LIW may have been a difficult unyielding person at times, but who among us cannot claim the very same thing?

There is, to my mind, substantial evidence that she was also highly admirable, bright, and resourceful.

Take care, and I wish you the best with your writing endeavors.

Alane

I'll stop by and let you know what, if anything, there is to be gleaned from the book I've ordered.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Thanks for stopping by Alane. I'm so glad you posted again. I've actually been collaborating on a novel with one of my sisters and I think we've done pretty well, but there have been times when we didn't see things eye to eye.

I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to work on all the Little House manuscripts together, and from such a distance. While Rose did live on Rocky Ridge Farm for a while, she was not close by during the editing for most of the books.

You bring up an interesting point about Holtz's preconceived ideas when he wrote TGITLH. I always hope that I can approach a topic without any bias, but I do know how challenging that can be. And a few times, when I feel I have done a good job of being objective, a reader has written back knowing exactly how I felt on the subject.

I'm very curious to know which title you've just bought. I can't wait to hear more from you.

Thanks again for stopping by.

Cheryl

11:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Cheryl,

The book I'm referring to is Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind the Legend - By John E. Miller and I'm quite looking forward to reading it. It was one of the books on Amazon that had a detailed critical review generated by an independent source as opposed to solely having reviews left by customers that have purchased the book. Nothing seems to color a person's perception more than the act of parting with money as part of the deal. At the same time, in part for contrast, I ordered Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder - By Donald Zochert, a book that will come complete with a foul odor, if the reviews are to be believed. You might ask yourself why I would order a book that was so poorly reviewed and the answer to that is fairly simple, I like to compare and contrast different views. They tend not to alter my own, but I find it an interesting exercise. However, as I said, I am looking forward to the first book, and am steeling myself for the second. The reason being one is said to be well written, the other poorly done and as I have mentioned, I already have my own opinions on the subject. I'll let you know how these two books hold up, but am telling you in advance, I've little hope for the second book. That doesn't bode well for it, does it? I'm going in with a preconceived notion and that author has the uneviable task of trying to dislodge that. At a guess Miller's book would probably appeal to you. The review stated that Miller refutes the claim that Rose was largely responsible for the Little House stories.

I'm sure that piecing together a personality and a view of a person's life is a challenging prospect. For one thing, information that we take in is passed through our own personal filters and colored by our own personalities even when we set out to accomplish the very opposite of that. We all of us have a basic nature, and our own exerpiences do tend to come into play.

Again, a for instance, when I read that you were a wife, mother and an aspiring author my mind began busily fleshing out a picture in my head. That's part of my personality, it is the way my mind works. I immediately thought of smiling children, in a brightly lit kitchen with juice boxes in hand. Playdates, swingsets, fridge covered in notes. Now, why in the world would that be the picture that my mind conjured? Obviously it has more to do with me than with you. I have a sixteen-year-old son, and one of my fondest memories is of taking him to the park when he was small. Since electronic correspondence offers no inflection, my mind kindly filled in things like whether or not you are a cheerful person. I concluded that you must be! Why? Simple, I'm assigning to you things that I find most comfortable, familiar and pleasant. I like happy things so you were passed through my filter and rendered happy.

My point being that it is my belief that to an extent we all do this, and no matter what, that will have been my first impression of you. A vague picture in my mind to which I could easily relate.

The challenge that biographers face is one that is easy to understand if we apply it to ourselves. Imagine for a moment that you have been removed from your home and sequesterd elsewhere with no opportunity to have direct input. A biographer walks into your home, examines your possessions, looks through your email correspondence, your home movies, birthday cards you may have saved. Then they set about painting their picture, often with the very best of intentions, but the information goes first through their own filter. Also, no matter what they do, there will always be the shadow of what they thought upon first entering your home. That view that was first afforded to them and went, perhaps farther than they will admit, in determining their sense of you.

When I apply this scenario to myself, it's a pretty amusing one. The first note the writer would probably make is "Aha, she likes vivid colors!" which would be entirely true, but how does that writer feel about colors? One of my widely diverse bookshelf is simply a howl to imagine someone trying to sort through and come up with a clear picture of who I am. For instance, right there are a few books by Marcel Proust. The truth of the matter is that Proust drove me nuts, but as it happens I read the books for a course I took, and I kept them for the silliest of reasons. I had managed to find two old hardcovers when I bought them for the class. My first hardcovers purchased with my own money as a starving student. That represents more to me than the actual writings do, but who would know this other than me? Well, now you do because I've bothered to tell you but if I was not present, you could reasonably draw a different conclusion. Same thing from the mass of teddy bears within my house. "Obviously a fan of bears," You might note. Uh, well, I was. Everyone that knows me has seemingly taken note of that to the extent that they shower me with teddy bears on every known gift giving occasion. I can't throw them out, that would be rude! So, to an observer it looks like I am a bear afficiando, but the truth is, I lost interest in them years ago. I can't tell my friends, my husband, my son this, they've given me heaven alone knows how many. I will leave this earth known for being mad about teddy bears. I do hope that isn't actually chipped out on my gravestone, but I have reason to fear that it will be. There's a lot of evidence after all.

My corresponence, well, I've just sent out a lengthy email to a friend detailing camera shots and lighting in the 2005 remake of Pride and Prejudice. There are at least ten emails about lighting, music, sound, dialogue and emotional tone of various films. So, clearly I must be a film buff. True, but actually, the person to whom I'm writing is an aspiring script writer. So the letters in question are geared towards the recipient, as most letters are.

Just a few examples of what our lives contain that if we were the subjects of this process, how would it look? In your place in sequesterville, had you a window into this process wouldn't you be wrapping on the pane, trying to get the writers attention? Have a word with them because quite obviously the ornate silver picture frame with the engraved doves was an impulse buy at a yard sale. Why in the world is this writer concluding that you toyed with the idea of investing in silver? Ah, now this writer has encountered the notes pertaining to the manuscript you are writing with your sister. This writer, will he or she think that these give them a clear view into your relationship with her? Probably he or she will draw a conclusion and put it to paper. After all, that's why they've come to your home, your life.

Next, they begin to canvass the neighborhood. "Why Mr. Wilkins, what did you think of Cheryl?" Does the writer know that your dog frequently dug up the Wilkins rose bushes? "Eek, don't ask him, he doesn't even like me and it's based on my dog more than anything else. Besides, he frequently forgets to take his meds! Oh do stop!"

I'm being a bit silly, but isn't the entire concept of the process a teensy bit unnerving? Do you feel as if you would be truly known, or truly guessed about? I know I, for one, would be yodeling (unheard of course) that we all had colds this weekend, that's why the laundry is piled so high, and the dust bunnies are breeding in the living room.

Something draws a writers interest, they form an opinion and start fleshing it out. The interest builds but always there is the shadow of the first picture that was formed.

Was the Wilder marriage a happy one, or an unhappy one? I pass it through my own filter, the way I like to see things, and my mind is made up. Authors will seek to persuade me of things, but they will encounter my own picture, formed when I was a child reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's books. In everything that the writer does, he or she will have the daunting task of trying to convince me. So, then the work goes through yet another filter that I know full well I have in place.

Our filters are more easily seen than perhaps we know. The most interesting thing is that they change over the course of a lifetime. When presented with a strong argument, I am fully capable of changing my views, and have done so on any number of subjects. The argument has to be crafted in a way that appeals to me, that makes me wish to listen. Again, yet another filter I have in place. I don't feel that I'm alone in that construction of self.

Good luck with your cowritten novel, I hope does well and finds a home at a publishing house very soon.

Take care,

Alane

11:39 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Alane,

I am thrilled to have an ongoing discussion with you about this topic. I look forward to your detailed posts, giving me insight into things I had never thought before.

You are perfectly right--we do have our own preconceived notions which make their ways into our writing.

Thanks for sharing the two titles you have just purchased. I have read both and liked them for very different reasons. I don't want to spoil them for you so I won't disclose much, but what I can say is that Miller's book is much livlier and engaging than Zochert's. Miller has used fiction techniques to create a more enjoyable biography of Wilder, whereas, Zochert's book while very informative, is--in my opinion--dry, facts and figures nonfiction. That's what I think causes Zochert's book to get bad reviews. But, I find I often take Zochert's book off the shelf to verify certain information about Wilder's life.

Another good book by Miller which might interest you is Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little Town Where History and Literature Meet. I liked it more than Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder and Miller once again refutes Holtz's claims about Rose's involvement in her mother's books. But the book itself does not revolve around this topic.

On a lighter note, I understand exactly what you are saying about your teddy bears. My family caught wind of my angels collection and every year I get something angel related for Christmas. I hope I still like them in 20 years or I will have a house full of angels that I can't stand looking at. LOL!

Thanks for your good wishes about our book. I appreciate them. And thanks for stopping by and providing me with great, thought-provoking posts.

Cheryl

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Cheryl,

I wanted to get back to you on Miller and Zochert's books. First a few other things, if you don't mind.

I noticed a post in your blog from July 4th of last year, in it you were contemplating the role of self in motherhood, vs. complete devotion to ones children. I read through the responses also, and I think you had great support, plus good advice in them. There were a couple of things I wanted to share that might help you as you go along though.

I'm going to be forty very shortly, and I have a sixteen-year-old son with whom I stayed home. At the time that was a bit difficult, my son was a surprise (a delightful one, but still, earlier than I had planned) and the way I found peace with pursuing things that would make me feel whole was fairly simple. I thought of what I would tell my son if he were to approach me with the question. I loved him dearly, still do, and felt his importance as an individual outside of being my child from the time he was born.

When I phrased the questions I was asking myself in that vein, I found that my answers came more easily. It's just something to keep in mind. If your daughter were full grown, and asked you, "Mom, should I...or should I...?" What would you advise her, this person that is closer in structure to being you than anyone else is, save you other child? Now, our children are never carbon copies of ourselves, but we have the ability to love and nuture them, and their interests that it helps to turn towards ourselves at time. I found myself thinking that I would advise my son to seek a balance in his life, and sought it for myself also. Isn't it funny that we give our best advice to others?

Besides, there is another element that bears thinking about. If your writing efforts are not successful at this time, because as you know it is a combination of luck and talent, the writing you do during this time is invaluable regardless. It is a way to know yourself when it comes time to look back. To see the changes time has wrought, and I think that one of the best ways to grow as a person is to contrast what we wrote when we were younger with who we are now, or who we become. It's amazing the things we can learn from ourselves, and the benefit that can have for future endeavors. Having said that? I still continue to wish you success, I just wanted you to know, in case you had not considered it, that there is merit to the work you are doing no matter the result. Your husband will benefit also since his wife is actively pursuing personal growth through writing. Besides, fulfilled people are happier people, and I think are better mothers for having the personal sense of accomplishment and identity.

Onwards to Miller.

I'm enjoying the book. I'm at about the half way point and whereas I find that he has a highly developed sense of detachment from his subjects, I think it benefits the book overall. He definitely maintains a distance from LIW, all of the Ingalls, and Rose also. Some of the book has been dry to the point of being a bit boring, but he is fair. In discussing Laura and Rose's relationship he takes into account something I am not sure the writer of Ghost in the Little House did, but I feel goes a long way towards explaining some of the comments you've shared from him.

Rose's emotional state at the time the editing process began for the books seems to have been strained at best. Miller comments that Rose admitted that at some point she had experienced "a mental breakdown". Now, depression, emotional dissatisfaction, and a sense of helplessness related to depression are common. However, treatment at the time was not advanced. Therapy was in a fledgling stage.

When unhappy, most people look for a source, and now we know to look inwards. We understand the role of brain chemistry also. At the time Rose experienced her difficulties that was not common though. As a very bright woman, knowing mainly that she was miserable, it would not surprise me if she lashed out at her mother as being the source of this unhappiness. The root factor of it.

It seems that statements Rose made in print regarding her childhood, and her mother in particular evolved over time. Starting out as being very bitter, unhappy and even accusatory. However, when she was older, her statements mellowed considerably and took on a different tone.

Miller again points out that Rose herself admitted later in life that she had a tendency to far overstate matters, and to misinterpret things with an edge of paranoia for a time in her life.

I don't know if this is the answer to all, but I think it is most certainly an answer to some of the things troubling both of us about the book you read. Specifically, the author's claim that Almanzo had told Rose that marrying Laura was a mistake. In light of the difficulties Rose experienced, and Miller's assertion that Rose essentially admitted she stated things not necessarily true, I think we have an explanation. That Rose, perhaps in a crisis at the time, was stating more what she believed and assigning it to her father, than actually stating fact.

I feel for Rose Wilder Lane, writing was an outlet and a refuge for her. It must have been a tremendous tool in recovering from a difficult time in her life. A great way to vent. However, I think we'd be remiss in taking it all as gospel truth.

Sometimes venting, or even simply expressing a feeling or thought, has a great deal more to do with the moment than anything else. At the moment, perhaps it served her well, but it seems from later statements when she seemingly contradicted herself, it might be fair to assume she regretted at least some of those moments. When troubled, or in pain, people are least like to be fair. Perhaps this is what happened with Rose.

I have no doubt that Rose's relationship with her mother was strained, and difficult for them both. I begin to wonder though if part of the reason LIW correspondence from this period is so slim to nonexistent. You're a mother, I'm a mother, and I feel that if my son had experienced a difficult time in his life, that I would probably in all likelihood also get rid of any correspondence from that period in his life, for fear that he would be judged in the whole by that period in his life. Perhaps I'd be concerned about how I also appeared. Had I failed? Had I done all that I could? Horrors, had I made the situation worse?

Obviously this is just a theory, but it is what I found myself thinking about.

I'm not rendering anyone blameless, but neither am I assigning any blame. Sometimes a situation simply is what it is. No villains, no hereos. Just people trying to get through the difficult times of life.

Oddly though, going back to Miller, I don't get the sense that Miller either likes, or dislikes LIW in a personal sense. I think he admires the impact of her work, and Rose's, more than he does the actual people. I think that is true of him with everyone involved. This is not to say he fails to like them, but rather that just isn't his focus. He is looking at what LIW's life wrought, and how. LIW, Rose Land Wilder, the Ingalls, all of them seem to be distant to him also. He certainly presents them as being so, with very few flights into his own unvarnished opinion.

That said, because I do very much sense that he admires the work accomplished, I feel that he is protective of LIW, of her family also, and of Rose. He usually states a very short opinion when it seems as if he thinks a reader of his book might judge too harshly.

He has a very mild view, and for the most part a gentle one. All while being fairly removed from the situation and maintaining the distance.

I get the sense that the book was very much an academic endeavor to him.

It is enjoyable, but only in small doses. I look forward to Zochert's book for contrast. I will tell you though that I'm glad I listen to fiction audiobooks while I take my daily hour on the treadmill. I need the fluffy mystery with which I've been juxtaposing the historical nonfiction. I'm a fan of nonfiction, but if I had Miller's book in audio version, I can't imagine going an extra ten minutes just to get to the end of a chapter.

I guess that's a decent example of the balance I was talking about earlier :-)

By the way, on the subject of angels and teddy bears in our respective homes, I wouldn't worry about ceasing to like angel figurines. I have never truly ceased to like teddy bears, I just have run out of room to place them! I think of them as the guardians of my imagination, and of course, angels have their role in being guardians of all.

Take care!

Alane

1:56 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Hey Alane,

Good to see you back again. Thanks for your thoughts on my earlier post about motherhood. I've come to decide that I must continue along the path I've chosen--towards publication--because I just won't be happy without it. And if I'm not happy, then I can't give my children a happy home.

Now, onto Miller and Rose. Rose was known for embellishing things, even in her books. Part of Holtz's biography discusses the biograpies Rose wrote or ghostwrote and the spots of trouble she found herself in upon occasion as a result of her overstating the events. Perhaps Rose took a one of Almanzo's off-handed comments and turned it around to mean something more about her father and mother's relationship than was there.

Rose's emotional state must also come into play. Holtz does mention Rose's depression, how unhappy she was, how she suddenly ended her relationships with men, and the like, but I don't think the connection is clearly made that this could have impacted how Rose saw her mother, her depression seemed in Holtz's book--to me anyway--to be the result of an unhappy childhood...Rose searching for what she had never known.

I'll agree with your sense of Miller's detachment from the subjects. He does his best to remain objective, whereas Holtz does not, in my opinion. But, since Holtz stated he wished to set the record straight, I don't know that I should expect objectivity from him.

As for Miller versus Zochert, I personally think you'll find Zochert's drier and more boring than Miller. It was--if I recall correctly--basically a book listing facts, without much else. Since I love research, neither book was a problem for me, but I can see how people would not enjoy them as much as I do because they aren't the lively accounts we get from William Anderson.

Thanks for stopping by again. I'll be posting about "Let the Hurricane Roar" shortly.

Take care!

Cheryl

9:22 AM  

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