Well, we did. But apparently, now that the venerable New Yorker has run an article about Rose and Laura–containing no new information, and just a lot of commentary based on recycled sources–cyberspace is whirling with debate about Rose’s politics, the expressed values in the Little House series, and even Christian doctrine as expressed in the books.
The original piece, written by Judith Thurman, focuses on material most of us already know: Rose was an early Libertarian who influenced the early conservative movement; Rose heavily edited the Little House books before they went to print; the relationship between Rose and Laura was both tense and symbiotic; and Rose led well-traveled, cosmopolitan life. Thurman cites William Holtz’s Ghost in the Little House as ” the work of a fastidious stylist, and, in its way, a minor masterpiece of insight and research.”
She also calls the rest of the available scholarly research about the Wilders “pedestrian,” scoffs at the themes of self-reliance in the books, applauds herself for being liberal, and pooh-poohs the idea and practice of rugged individualism.
For someone who’s merely recycling others’ research, Thurman is remarkably arrogant in her assumptions about the Midwest and Wilder enthusiasts.
For Thurman does not offer any new information about Rose and Laura. The only thing this article does is to bring this story to an elite East Coast literary audience, in effect raising the issue of Rose’s influence on national politics to national debate. In that, she has succeeded.
Just in the last two days, response to the Thurman piece has run the gamut from enthusiastic praise to righteous fury, and everything in between. The conservative take comes from a blog called “Reason” and from “Right Wing News.” Pastor Chris Brauns chooses to discuss Christian doctrine in the books in his blog. And Mediaite.com weighs in with a gush about the fact that the Wilder women are getting recognition at all.
But my favorite take on the subject comes from Kate Harding at Salon.com. As a newcomer to understanding the enthusiasm for the Wilder women, Harding writes an enthusiastic piece praising Rose Wilder Lane, and calling for a general interest biography of her story. She writes: “Rose Wilder Lane, please come back from the dead and be my BFF.”
My sentiments exactly, Kate.