Mar. 27th, 2005

ealgylden: (Sepia Joan (megl42))
I've always felt vaguely guilty about it, but I never actually finished reading the "Little House on the Prairie" books when I was a kid. The first four in the series tucked in nicely alongside Alcott, Montgomery, Lovelace, Sydney Taylor and my other historical fiction faves, and I zipped right through them. But for some reason, By The Shores of Silver Lake didn't snag me as strongly, and then we didn't have a copy of The Long Winter (even as a kid I was tetchy about skipping around in a series), and by then my momentum was pretty well shot. I knew how the story eventually ended, thanks to my best friend's three older sisters, but personally, I stuck to those first four books and merrily read them to bits. My particular fave was, oddly enough, Farmer Boy. Plum Creek had the more involving plot (not to mention a plague of locusts), but the balance was tipped in Farmer Boy's favor by the food. LIW's writing pays a lot of attention to food in general, treating both its abundance and absence with sensitivity, and she even has descriptions of a few meals that I know in real life you could not have gotten me to eat no matter how many ponies you included in the bribe, but which sounded madly enticing in the book. Hunger can be the best sauce to writing, as well, I guess. And Farmer Boy is especially bursting at the seams with delicious-sounding foods (pie! so much pie! and ice cream and bread and roast chicken and pie pie pie!), so that was the one that lured me back most often. Mother Wilder must have been one heck of a cook. Mmm, I'm hungry just thinking about it (and no pie in the house, alas).

The other advantage Farmer Boy had was that the Wilders were local. Almanzo was from the North Country, just like me!, and that was just the coolest thing ever. No one famous was from the North Country, you see, and certainly not people in books. And yet in Farmer Boy there were towns I knew, landmarks I could go see, family names that are still common in the area... why, we drove right by the Wilder homestead on the way to 4-H camp every year! Kids who live in Boston or London or New York City might lose that thrill of recognition pretty quickly, but trust me, it makes a lasting impression on a ten-year-old from the middle of nowhere. Funny to think of how long it's been since I've read those books. I can turn around and see Edward Eager, the All-of-a-Kind Family and Betsy-Tacy and Tib on the shelf right behind me now, but I'm not even sure where the "Little House" books have been packed away. And I never did finish them. Aw, how sad. Now I feel old and melancholy.

And I only got on this track in the first place because I wanted to say how enjoyable the first part of the new Little House adaptation on ABC was. Heh. I've seen maybe an hour total of the Melissa Gilbert series, and none of the bits and pieces I have seen has tempted me to seek out more. This new version, though, seems to hew closer to what I remember of the books, and it has some interesting darker (more realistic) undercurrents. Even the viewer least familiar with the source material can guess that a title like Little House on the Prairie means the family's not going to get killed off back in the woods, but still, the show manages to make the dangers of the journey seem real. And the cast is really good- attractive, appealing, and believable as a family. I'm with them, all the way. They're good enough that if ABC turned this miniseries into a series, I'd definitely watch, and good enough to make up for a terrible, soppy, Carpenters-esque song that pops up a couple of times on the soundtrack. Why would you inflict that on an otherwise effective score? That's just mean. Almost as mean as cliffhanger endings. Hmph. I mean, I know certain things can and can't happen within the boundaries of this particular story, cliffhanger ending or no, but even that safety net doesn't balance a big ole "To be continued." A week is a very long time, and I'm an instant gratification sort of gal. Anyway, the show has its flaws, but its virtues outweigh them, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Plus, Charles Ingalls is David Keogh from Highlander. Ha! Wouldn't that make a wacky plot twist?


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