Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Literary Dream Tour, Part III

We're in the single digits now, and it's time to update you on our latest pre-departure news.

1. The great Laura Ingalls Wilder dilemma faces us: we've been listening to On the Banks of Plum Creek in the car as we drive hither and thither, and we only have about 3 hrs left of Cherry Jones' masterful reading. Now, 3 hrs is almost exactly how long Mapquest estimates it will take us to drive from Minneapolis to Walnut Grove. So we should eject the disc and save the rest for our trip, right? Of course. Except the boy, who disdained going on a "girl-book" trip, wants to keep listening. Uh-huh. He is particularly interested in hearing the chapter "Town Party" because we just heard about Laura and Mary going to school with the dreadful Nellie Oleson, and we are all fascinated and drawn to the dreadful Nellie Oleson like rubberneckers to a five-car pile-up. Plus, Cherry Jones does such an awesome job, someone should give her the audiobook equivalent of an Emmy.
Her "Oh, Charles!"es are perfection!
So far I've managed to avoid the issue by not having all three kids in the car at once, but I don't know how much longer I can delay...

2. What do the great Laura Ingalls and Betsy-Tacy have in common besides Minnesota? Locusts, of course. I've driven the 13YO nuts by moaning about the coming infestation every time Pa buys something new and tells Caroline, "Don't worry, Caroline! Just look at that wheat! Once I harvest it we can pay for the house/pay for the horses/buy new dresses/buy anything, period!" Oh, Charles.

From Because nothing says Fine Art like a Locust

If you recall, I was reading that book on the locust plagues of the 1870s-1880s, which excerpted LIW at length, but it also went on to quote Maud Hart Lovelace (!), her Gentlemen from England in particular. Not only that, but, when Aunt Ruth moves in with Joe and Betsy in Betsy's Wedding, she regales Betsy with stories of "fires, blizzards, [and] grasshopper plagues...Aunt Ruth loved disasters." It occurs to me that Aunt Ruth would have been about LIW's age. Very cool.

3. And why oh why has no one exploited the Downton Abbey - Betsy-Tacy connection? Same bat time, almost the same bat place, if you count the London chapter in Betsy and the Great World. All the things women love about Downton can be found in the Betsy books: hair, elaborate clothing, suffragettes, women speaking their minds, WWI. Great World and Betsy's Wedding have so many, many period details that someone should hop on the bandwagon and bring them to the screen. (Only please don't let HBO or Showtime do them, or Betsy would constantly be having to rip off her top and  do the nasty with Mr. O'Farrell, Marco, Bob Barhydt, and any other man thrown in her path...)

I got so curious about all the references to songs and dancing that I discovered this book from the Maud Hart Lovelace Society:
When the kids see this, they'll dump the Xbox and run to the piano!
Too bad there doesn't seem to be a CD included because heaven knows I do not have Julia's or Carney's or even Betsy's piano skills to bring the songs to life, and how dearly I would like to hear "Howdy, Cy!" (Did find this link to a plodding, dirge-tempo piano version--can't imagine Julia playing that to wake anyone up..!)

For the curious, I discovered this whimsical video of dances from Betsy's married era:

Although they describe it as dances from the 1920s, they're actually from the WWI period.
"Certainly the Crowd danced--in smart hotels as Mr. Bagshaw's guests, in their homes entertaining Mr. Bagshaw, and, when the weather turned hot, at country clubs and leafy lakeside places Mr. Bagshaw was aware of. They danced the merry one-step and the swaying, gliding tango and the maxixe and the hesitation." (Betsy's Wedding)
 The ancient, worldly Mr. Bagshaw was the one who praised Vernon and Irene Castle for bringing the culture "out of the turkey-trot-bunny-hug vulgarity." Imagine Tib doing the bunny hug! So sad that no one learns to dance anymore. At Easter dinner my niece told me her middle school incorporates square dancing into every semester of P.E., and everyone loves it. I'm telling you: Downton Abbey Dancing Lessons. Million dollar idea, and you can have it for free.

You're welcome.

Stay tuned.


  1. It's probably too late to mention this but I took my girls back to Iowa for my grandmother's 92nd birthday (we couldn't get organized in time for her 90th). I drove with my mother and two girls (9&6, 10&7?) In tbe back seat sharing one tape cassette player with two headsets - so primitive. They were very into LHOTP so we made a trip to DeSmet South Dakota where we visuted the Ingalls family graves and they sat in desks in tbe tiny shed sized schoolhouse wbere Laura first taught. We went to Walnut Grove too but DeSmet was the real Ingalls for us.
    Did you see tbe PBS show on George V and Queen Mary on Sunday night?

    1. DeSmet is not a possibility on this trip (nor is Pepin, WI) because I had to promise the spare day to that other Great American Landmark: the Mall of America!!!! This is what comes of bringing a mildly reluctant 13YO along.

  2. SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!!! You're coming to Minnesota!! (and please note that I want to keep using all caps but i'm holding myself back)

    WHEN will you be in Mankato?!? Can I meet you there for the private tour? seriously and pretty please? Mankato is about 45 minutes from my house and I would absolutely, unquestionably, drive down to meet my WWF friend in person. Just say the word.

    omg, i can't believe you're coming to MN to see all these great landmarks!!!

    1. Dang! All I can say is, Minnesota WWF people are probably the friendliest on the planet. I think you know Jody, too, right? I had to break the news to her that the girls and I had NO UNACCOUNTED FOR time on this trip, unless she might possibly tear over to Mall of America while I'm waiting for the girls to get off the roller coaster.

      If you seriously wanna crash the Betsy-Tacy tour, message me on WWF. And how can I not come to MN? Girl book central!