Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Wilder Life

Last week, I read Amy Pitt's review of The Wilder Life in Time Out NY (link above). It was not the biggest rave ever, but the book's subject matter resonated with me. Chicago writer Wendy McClure spent a year intermittently tracing the various homes of the Charles Ingalls' family, immortalized in his daughter's Little House books. Little House in the Big Woods is the first chapter book that I remember reading. It was also one of the few Little House books that I actually owned- most of them I read via the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library.
As an adult, whenever I thought of the Little House books it was in reference to my nieces- where they of the right age and temperament for the books as gifts. Then several years ago, I found myself in southeastern Kansas, doing a residency at the William Inge Center (which was quite an experience; I don't think I've ever gotten so many ideas for plays in such a short period of time). The nearest town to the Little House on the Prairie is Independence, where William Inge was born. I didn't have a car, and long-suffering Inge Center Associate Bruce Peterson drove me to the Ingalls' house. I hadn't seen any of the houses before. I saw the log cabin (a reproduction, but what a small space for that many people!), the well that Pa dug, a school and, of course, the gift shop (I admit, I went a little crazy. My excuse was I was documenting my trip for my eldest niece).
Wendy McClure has done what I've thought about ever since. She's visited all the Little House sites (even Almanzo's boyhood home upstate), and recorded her emotional responses to the books, the history and the death of her mother which sent her off in this direction. I picked up the book at the Strand on Friday and finished it last night. If I hadn't been so busy, it wouldn't have taken that long.
Images courtesy of McClure's website,

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