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Miss Alcott's E-mail: Yours for Reforms of All Kinds Paperback – August 1, 2007
Debut author Bakke's enduring appreciation of Louisa May Alcott inspired a uniquely constructed epistolary bio-memoir in which Bakke and Alcott exchange e-mails across time, many on the subject of how women can maintain a life of purpose while entering middle age. This intriguing and lively imagery correspondence is interleaved with Bakke's historical essays about Alcott's life, which provide a concise biography of the women's-movement pioneer. Bakke also expresses an affinity for Alcott's abolitionist stance, which leads her to gloss over the violent acts of Alcott's great hero, John Brown, just as Alcott did. Bakke also reflects on her own radical past. As a former member of the Weather Underground, Bakke has experience with a revolutionary movement and the controversy it engendered and finds in Alcott a kindred spirit. Alcott fans will enjoy the biographical essays and keen manner in which Bakke assumes Alcott's voice and connects two distant eras. Readers interested in the 1960s protest movement will also find much to consider in Bakke's frank assessments of her own turbulent young adulthood. Colleen Mondor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
(An) excellent book...the effect is like a wonderful movie shot with a hand-held camera. --Washington Post Book World
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Kit Bakke belonged to the radical Weather Underground and thus identifies with Louisa May Alcott's idealistic and radical side, to the extent that she disparages LITTLE WOMEN (shock! horror!) in favor of such mature novels as WORK and MOODS. To her credit, she practically persuades the reader that these are important documents of American literary history, although she never really convinces me into believing that LITTLE WOMEN is a lesser work than we had thought. She just isn't skilled enough as a polemicist to make the case. Nor is she talented enough to pull off the fancy of being two people writing e-mails to each other over a century, herself and Alcott, especially when she has to update Alcott about all the social and cultural changes that have occurred since Alcott's death like US involvement in Vietnam and the Beatles vs. the Stones argument. (Rock music is "very experimental, loud and dramatic, with lyrics by handsome young men all about relationships, nature, and politics.")
However, what sets Kit Bakke apart from other writers is her sheer love of life and the ease with which she fits together two eras that seem, at the outset, so very different as to have nothing to say to each other. She tells us about a contemporary who, inspired by the Cuban revolution, named her daughter "Guevara," then changed the baby's name to "Guava" when radical chic faded and nouvelle cuisine caught her eye.
Bakke also makes Alcott's minor works sound interesting, especially her final uncompleted novel, DIANA AND PERSIS, which she sums up into four leading questions, "Can a productive and creative single woman be happy?" "Can a married woman maintain her personal life and friends?" "Can women be both personally happy and professionally successful?" "Can people be happily married and still respect each other's privacy and basic human rights?" Not all of these questions are of the same timbre or register, but it is almost as though they were too weighty for Alcott to answer fully, in the occluded times she shared with millions of other deracinated American women, not even "given the vote" for another 40 years, and that the effort made in posing the questions quite possibly carried her off--for she did die young, after all, needlessly so, having worn herself out in a lifetime of suffering, labor, sorrow, misunderstood love, and a dream of equal rights for all. Many recent commentators on Alcott have pointed to her productivity and likened her to a writing machine, a woman who'd write anything, from horror to melodrama to jokes, as long as she got her penny per word, and made her out to seem like an Erma Bombeck of the 19th century. In Bakke's version, that's all wrong, and she labored mightily to actualize herself in everything she did and, more importantly, in the words she left behind.