Friday, August 10, 2018

The Great Wars and Outting Pa














Dear Sad Goodbyes,

I have been informed that my mind and body are the field on which the broader culture wars continue to rage.  I am not sure I approve of this tenancy.  I have suspected it, of course, but it still stings.  Setting this injury aside, for now, I give you this review of a book on Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

What the author is, or was, or even who the author of these books is, might be less important than what the readers did or do with the stories, but the Little House books have been sitting in a stack in my studio, awaiting a tough decision:  continue to treasure their pale yellow spines, and sweet Garth Williams cover illustrations, or let them go like mist.

It pained me, 8 years ago, when I was reading these formerly beloved volumes aloud to my son and husband.  These books were formative, like the many Marguerite Henry books on the
Chincoteague ponies, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Madeline L'Engle books.  I found, in the second or third book, that Pa was actually a complete menace to his family.   A tyrant, really.  I couldn't even go on reading them- the family would laboriously scrape out a little hollow of safety, comfort, or stability, and he'd pack it in to move.  I could find no way to excuse or explain this man's actions to males I cared about.  If my job as a mother is to help to form my son's relationship to women, Pa seemed like a very bad influence, all of a sudden. 

I realized I had categorized Pa as a kind of natural phenomenon, a force of nature, an Act of God in the insurance sense- he struck randomly and fiercely, like fires and blizzards.  But strike he did, and that is why, after this final consideration, confession, and tearful acceptance, I am saying goodbye to the books, because I don't want crazy Pa in my life anymore.  I am sorry that Laura and all the beautiful prairie, woods, plains, and mountains will have to go too, but Pa just isn't good enough for me and my people.