Mar. 19th, 2017

emma_in_dream: (trance)
You probably know more about William Taylor Adams, who wrote over 100 novels as “Oliver Optic”, than you think. Louisa May Alcott, in 1875’s *Eight Cousins*, launched a thinly veiled attack on the hyperactive and unrealistic novels in the highly successful Oliver Optic series According to Alcott, too many juvenile novels extolled criminal activity, slangy language, mysterious luck, and sudden success. Speaking through one of her characters, she emphatically criticised the overwrought portrayals as “optical delusions”.

Adams responded promptly with pointed prose in *Oliver Optic’s Magazine: Our Boys and Girls*:

MISS LOUISE (sic) M. ALCOTT is publishing a story in a magazine. It is called “Eight Cousins.” We have read only the portion to which our attention has just been called, and looked over two or three chapters of another portion. It is a critical story; or, at least, it contains a chapter of criticism. The topic is “Sensational Books for Boys,” and she treats it as flippantly as though she knew what she was writing about. The mother of the two boys in the story says she “has read a dozen at least of these stories,” from which we infer that Miss Alcott has read them; but, judging from some of the quotations she makes, she read them with her elbows. . . . She mixes things terribly. She quotes from one book, and judges another by what she quotes. She quotes from the Optic books, and then fastens upon them the sins of other books, as we shall presently show. . . . She seems to have deliberately misrepresented the books she writes about.

Oliver Optic wrote over 100 childrens’s novels, mostly for boys, and also edited his own magazine.

I read *Little by Little: Or the Cruise of the Flyaway* (1860), which seems a lot less trashy than his reputation implies. The lead character works thriftily to pay off the mortgage on his widowed mother’s house and has mild adventures in his fishing boat. It’s hard to see why these books were hated so much. Caroline M. Hewins, director of the Hartford (Connecticut) Public Library, described his works in the most hyperbolic terms:

I wish that I could tell you of great results, and that the children of Hartford had walked in procession to the Park, and there, Savonarola-like, burned their idols, Alger, Optic, Castlemon, and Elsie; but unfortunately, my regard for truth prevents any such statement.

Having said that, Hewins nonetheless bought Optic books for the Hartford Public Library.

Oliver Optic apparently aroused fierce emotions and yet, apparently, wrote fairly innocuous stories.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
Things that have happened in the last week:
1, the electricity was out upstairs which involved significant work in the ceiling area by the electrician.
2, there was a burst pipe in the common area and the plumber had to cut the water off overnight.
3, my parents' car is out of commission again so I am lending them my car next week.
4, as an unrelated issue, one of the light fixtures has broken and the electrician will have to return.


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