I finished two books recently. This was not nearly as many as I’d wanted to read, but life happens and what can you do? So, these easy reads took me a while, but that is not a terrible reflection on them.
First up was Diary of Anna Green Winslow, A Boston School Girl of 1771.
And that pretty much explains the gist of it. The book was put together by a Alice Morse Earle (apparently a historian) in 1894, so the endnotes are look back on colonial life through the lense of the 1890s, which is interesting in itself. The diary, itself, is charming. The little girl’s voice is sweet and precocious. I wish I knew more about her. Particularly interesting is the way she writes – no paragraphs, ideas all lumped together. Yet, it is clear and easy to understand. It must be said that the endnotes are inadequate whether it is 1894 or 2012. There’s much left to explain, and the reader is left with questions about life in Colonial Boston. It’s worth reading, especially if you like diaries, history, or young adult psychology. There’s a lovely innocence and simplicity in her writing that seems absent in the writings of and for young people today. Today’s rather agressive media and our often superficial and materialistic attitudes seem to erode such qualities, even though, I suspect, our youngsters have the same basic worries and desires as Anna.
The second book was What Would Barbra Do? How Musicals Changed My Life, by Emma Brockes.
I bought this, never having heard of it, at one of the Border’s going-out-of-business sales. If it had not been marked down, I probably would have looked, made note, had interest – I was a teenage musical theater lover, too – but not bought. The lovely thing about discounts (and used books, by the way) is that you can indulge in a chance and a whim.
So, I did indulge. And, while it was lots of fun, and I’m very glad I read it – laugh out loud funny OFTEN – I might have been a wee bit annoyed by the author’s need to disparage so many good musicals. Well, it’s about her feelings and likes and dislikes. And, no one’s going to want to publish a book with no attitude and a dishwater approach to a subject so many see as so rife for mocking and mean humor. And, some of the laughs would be impossible without the attitude. But, it was irritating. So, it’s nice to have gotten on sale.
The end of the book is unexpectedly sad. This left me wondering if Brockes’s sardonic nature was to make a deeper point about the maddening and inconvenient way silly little things like movies where people sing about everything from love to the weather may actually have significant meaning in our lives. At that point, I forgave her a bit.
The book is organized around themes like how men relate to musicals. Through reflections on different shows (usually movies, for some reason, rather than stage performances), Brockes explores humorously ideas about life and what makes a good musical. She hates Brigadoon (I love it!) and has a “lentils with Yentl evening” every so often with her friend. (She watches Yentl and eats lentils. I really liked that.) She’s warming to Sondheim whom she never really cared for previously. (Kindred spirits in that.)
If you enjoy musicals – particularly if you were alone in this among your peer group – you’ll almost definitely enjoy this book. Don’t take it too seriously, sensitive musical lovers.