One of the canons of modern fiction is to keep a tight check on our impulses to overload scenes with block descriptions. Adjectives and adverbs should be tightly controlled, show, don’t tell, and so forth. And then I read a great story written by someone who never picked up a writer’s manual, and who breaks ‘the rules’ left and right on the way to writing an American classic.
So it is with Laura Ingalls Wilder (left) and her LITTLE HOUSE books. Wilder, a product of the westward expansion of the late 19th century, was also a keen observer of human nature and a disappearing way of life—the family farm. She never knew her stories would end up becoming important histories, oral histories really, since her voice rings true on every page. She thought she was writing for children. When I was a girl, I never went more than a few months without reading one of her books. Now my daughter is discovering these stories, and I take great pleasure in reading them with her but through the lens of a writer as well as a reader.
What makes her books classics? [Read more…]