Reading Alcott

My secret vice is that I read adolescent fiction on my smart phone. This awful habit started years ago. I have the collected works of Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery and I pore over them when stuck in line or waiting for food at a cafe.

Now I find that Bear is likewise reading reading Eight Cousins on her smart phone.

This is particularly interesting because the womens’ roles in Alcott’s fiction tend to be super-traditional, while Bear’s politics are “progressive” to put it mildly. I generally agree with both Bear’s attitude on womens’ rights and her attitude towards Alcott: who cares if her female characters are so traditional!

I think we both appreciate Alcott’s underlying themes: the pursuit of moral ideals over superficial values (despite the difference in moral values) and the fundamental rights of women to self-determination (despite the different view of womens’ roles). Alcott portrays “strong minded” women as positive role models despite the negative reactions of conventionally attractive male characters.

I like to call Bear our “professional rabble rouser” since she’s almost always had a job where she promotes progressive causes – president of NOW New Jersey, deputy state Attorney General for civil rights, working on youth rights for the Southern Poverty Law Center, public defender – and so on. I don’t think she’s ever had a “high paying attorney job” in her life, despite her law degree and bar memberships. Her progressive credentials need no further proof.

I admit I take some personal pride in Bear’s smart phone habit. A few years ago, she inherited my old Palm Treo with its library of Alcott, Montogmery, bits of Bronte, and examples of boarding school fiction. She seemed mildly interested in my collection, but the interest has clearly blossomed.

As far as I know, neither Bear nor I read anything that costs money. Everything I have, and everything she mentions, is copyright-free. I get most of my fiction from Gutenberg, though some sources have additional titles.

My only struggle is to get the books onto my Palm in readable form. Gutenberg will convert just about any of their books to Mobipocket format, but that format seems to work poorly on the Mac.

If Verizon ever gets the iPhone, I might jump over to an iPhone myself. Meanwhile, my current Treo is alleged to not work with the latest Mac OS X. So I’m not upgrading until I find a new smart phone.

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