Monday, October 03, 2005

Too Good to be Bad?

Know what I love? The first entry in a new month that causes my Archives to reflect another month's worth of blogging. I love watching that list grow because it feels like I've accomplished something. Yeah, nothing I've written here will change world history or advance western civilization. But this has to be the first time in my life that a journal I've started has made it beyond the first half-dozen pages.

Remember how the other day I got an itching to read Laura Ingalls Wilder? Never one to deny my inner neediness, I curled up on the sofa yesterday for some quality time with my two fav LIWs, Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years.

These two books are my favorites because they deal with the growing relationship between Laura and future husband, Almanzo Wilder. Even back in the day before I'd ever considered kissing a boy (ewww, boy cooties!), this part of the story held me captivated. And even back then, I wanted to know so much more.

I mean this on two levels.

First, I wanted to know more about what happened when Laura and Almanzo were courting. I wanted to ride along when they took buggie rides across the plains of South Dakota. I wanted to know what they talked about before and after singing school. I wanted to see the little house that Almanzo built for Laura. I'd come to love these two characters, and I pretty much wanted to spend every single moment with them.

But as I've grown older, I realize that wanting to know so much more is also based on my personal preference for intimate details when reading a romance. I'm not talking about any sicko voyeuristic tendancies. I'm talking about grinning when they first hold hands or feeling that satisfied tingle when they finally kiss. I usually feel this way when the sexual tension has been written well, and I'm itching for the hero and heroine to move to the next step and then the next. But I want to be there when they walk it.

Thing is, LIW lived a very long time ago. Long, long before it was acceptable for writers to write about a couples' love life. Heck, she lived so long ago that if we are to believe what we've read from that time, couples didn't even have love lifes. Children just sprang fully formed from their mother's foreheads because lawdy knows nothing else was going on.

So it only makes sense that Laura and Almanzo's relationship was depicted in very chaste, discrete terms. They kissed once or twice. I think Almanzo did put his arms around Laura at one point, and I know that he put his hand over hers. When they finally found themselves in front of the preacher man, they were married. That's it. Those are exactly the words LIW herself uses. "So they were married."

I can't complain about any of this. After all, these were books meant for children, and it's my own fault that I haven't grown out of them yet. Too, LIW is only guilty of writing an historical romance accurately. She wrote exactly what she knew was proper at the time. We as readers get to see only what we as people would have been allowed to see had we lived at the end of the nineteenth century. It's only from our twenty-first century viewpoint that things seem kind of prudish.

What re-reading LIW's stuff makes me want to do is rewrite it with more. Kind of like all those writers who can't stand the fact that Pride and Prejudice ends where it does so they push onward. I know how they feel. I hate that after all of that investment, we poor readers are left with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy riding off into the sunset without so much more than a proper wedding kiss. Talk about your sexual frustration. And if any writer out there could manage to capture Austen's voice and style and write a story that I think is true to the characters and time period, I would sell my dog to have that book. Really.

So maybe it's not so crazy to want to write "Laura and Almanzo: The Untold Love Story." You know, the behind-the-scenes, what LIW didn't show you tale of how their love came to be and what happened behind the closed doors. Kind of taking what LIW started and expanding it, embellishing it, turning it into something the adult in me would find satisfying.

Except writing something like that just feels wrong. It'd be like writing sleazy stories about Mr. Rogers or Mother Theresa. The romance between Laura and Almanzo is as sweet and pure and innocent as they come because we were shown nothing else. Adding sexual tension to it seems...well, sleazy.

Too, since I sincerely hope to meet LIW when I get to Heaven (she's one of my top 10 folks I hope to meet when I get to Heaven), I'd hate to have her yell at me for turning her story into so much trashy novel fodder.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love LIW too, and completely understand what you're saying here. We want to know more, but on the other hand, that would ruin everything. It's sort of like finally seeing the alien at the end of the movie "Signs." Great movie full of anticipation and tension. But when we fianlly get to see the alien up close, all of that tension disappears, and it's like, "That's it? He's not so scary."

Funny analogie to make while talking about LIW, but a similar idea. If we had had the opportunity to read about their wedding night, the entire story and tone of little house would change, and IMO, be ruined for the duration. You're so right, it would be sleazy. Or else just plain weird.

Coincidently, I was just reading about this movie called "Beyond the Prairie, the True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder," which aired on CBS a few years ago...and the wedding night IS depicted in this film -

Woah, big stuff. And so, so sleazy.

I liked Scully and Mulder on the X-files for the same reason...the sexual tension was terrific. If they had actually had a physical relationship (and/or it was depicted), it would have been a different show altogether. But as it was, great character dynamic and storytelling environment prevailed.

Good luck with your writing career!