Thursday, April 14, 2011

Trancendental Wild Oats

by Louisa May Alcott
Boston, Mass. : The Harvard Common Press, 1975.

When Louisa May Alcott was ten years old, her father and other transcendental visionaries experimented with living off the land in a community called Fruitlands. They would not use any animal products in diet, farming, or clothing. They would work at what jobs pleased them and spend their leisure time in activities such as reading or discussing philosophical questions.

In Transcendental Wild Oats, Louisa May Alcott fictionalizes her family's experience attempting just that. This very short story is subtitled "A Chapter from an Unwritten Romance." I do not know enough about Fruitlands to determine how realistic some of the situations are, but her descriptions sometimes made me laugh as Louisa shows how the principles may have been well and good, but in practice their experiment went awry. This volume also includes an excerpt from Louisa's childhood diary and two letters that Fruitlands founders Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane wrote.

Perhaps this was not a good book to read as my introduction to Bronson Alcott and Fruitlands. My particular copy has an introduction by William Henry Harrison, who apparently worked in the Fruitlands museum in the 1970s. Harrison's introduction is broad and gives a brief biography of Charles Lane and Bronson Alcott, the founders of Fruitlands, but I didn't truly feel like I had a grasp on what their intentions for Fruitlands was. This makes reading a satire of the attempt a little bit difficult to "get." But the story piqued my interest in reading a biography of Louisa May Alcott that gives me more information on this experiment. Here is my short list of Alcott-related books I now want to read:

Funny how reading one book can add to my TBR list...

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