THE GHOST IN THE LITTLE HOUSE by William Holtz

THE GHOST IN THE LITTLE HOUSE

A Life of Rose Wilder Lane
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Big news in the Little House. As already reported in the press, Holtz (English/Missouri) maintains that Rose Wilder Lane was a silent partner to her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder, turning Laura's bland and shapeless memoirs into burnished literary reminiscences. Here, Holtz's respectful, penetrating, deeply detailed biography of the daughter documents her capacities as writer/editor, establishing plausible motivation and providing evidence (diary entries, letters) of the mutual deception. Missouri-born Rose left an impoverished home as soon as she could, married early and briefly, then began a writing career that took her to exotic places among famous people. But few works of quality emerged: Often writing ``under the lash of necessity,'' she lived a life full of sudden projects, bouts of depression, the occasional ``ethical slide,'' and a string of intense but failed relationships. Returning broke to the family farm in her mid-30s, she was drawn to a libertarian philosophy that colored her writing as she searched in vain for personal validation and financial security. At the same time, ``Mama Bess'' wrote short, undistinguished farm-wife pieces until, encouraged by Rose, she resumed a narrative on pioneer life. Although Rose coached her on structure and tone, the older woman could not incorporate these suggestions into her work. ``I know the music, but I can't think of the words,'' she admitted. Ultimately, Rose used her professional experience to turn her mother's recollections into publishable form, standardizing spelling and punctuation, changing the narrative from first person to third, and altering events for dramatic purposes and to suit her political principles. Nobody suspected the collaboration until scholars looking for the roots of Laura's ``untutored genius'' found little to support her transformation. An intimately argued and nonjudgmental presentation that well supports Holtz's contention that ``everything that makes the Little House books stand up and sing is what the daughter did to them.'' (Twenty-five illustrations--not seen)

Pub Date: May 31st, 1993
ISBN: 0-8262-0887-8
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Univ. of Missouri
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993




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