Tuesday, February 7, 2012

February 7: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Today is the birthday of Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957. In the mid-1970s I was given a boxed set of her Little House on the Prairie books for my birthday, and I've been in love with them ever since. When we were in Florida last month for Bookmania, I met author Wendy McClure, who recently wrote The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie, a book about her obsession with the books and where it led her (which was, quite literally, around the country following Laura's footsteps). I was not the only one who told her after her panel presentation how exciting it was to find another Laura fanatic out there.

I think one of the most resonant features of the Little House books, which Wendy discusses quite articulately, is how you feel that the Laura in the books was a real live girl and that you, the reader, are really her friend. Also, she writes with an incredibly strong sense of place. You're there in the big woods with panthers screaming in the trees, watching a blizzard cloud rise above the prairie horizon, bringing yet another snow storm, or picking wild violets with Baby Grace in a buffalo wallow in the tall-grass prairie.

The first book in the series, Little House in the Big Woods, ends with these lines: "She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago." A Little House Moment of Zen, if there ever was one.

On my couch, and yet
prairie winds riffle my hair,
urge on my pony.

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