Saturday, January 7, 2012
What Do We Learn
Before I start, I wanted to share with you a picture of the afghan the Blog hop winner will receive. This afghan is baby pink and petal pink with a white trim done completely in open shell stitching. The lighting isn't the best but I think you will get the idea.We plan to hold another giveaway in February. Drop by and let me know if you would like another book and afghan or if you would like a book and gift card. If you, dear reader, have some other idea of a great giveaway, let us know. We love new ideas!
I have been doing some research on old books that I really enjoyed as a kid. In my travels I came across a few good reviews of many of the book I read. Among them were the books that came out of the Stratemeyer Syndicate book packaging firm. You may know them as the Nancy Drew or the Bobbsey Twins series. The Hardy Boys was another series that came from Edward Stratemeyer's company.
While in grade school I read a book called Polly's Senior Year at Boarding School, which sat on my grandmother's bookshelf. A couple of decades ago I went to search for a copy and after learning that the 'author' of the Nancy Drew books was really ghostwriter Mildred Wirt Benson, among others, I thought that Polly might have been another of her books. During that search someone gave me Polly of the Hospital Staff hoping it was one of the series. It is not but an interesting book nonetheless. (See Sue's review.)
All this brings me to what this blog is about today. These books were written almost a century ago and within their pages lay a pipeline to the thoughts and beliefs, the mores and laws, and the sense of what was right and wrong which existed in those times. This is a direct line, not something someone has written to explain to us what society was then. No, read enough of these books and you get a sense of what people were like.
The biggest shame to what has happened to some of these books; the 'updating' and rewriting done to protect us from the truth of the times. Not all of it is done for that purpose. For instance, the Bobbsey Twins were updated because they talked about things like a 'magic lamp' which was a new (at the time) lamp that used electricity. But Nancy Drew and some of Mark Twain's work was redone because of racial slurs and other offensive passages. When that is done we lose some valuable evidence - the first hand writing of those who lived in that time.
To be fair, Nancy Drew and others were updated to appeal to youngsters of today. This of course means the story is no longer a window into the past. It is important that the books be rewritten with today's moral outlook if they are written as if they take place today or in the near past. Those books, however, that are written to stay within the original time period, should not be updated in this way, to my mind, because we lose the accuracy of the past.
So what are some of the things we learn from these old books? I learned, for instance, from the Polly book, that women were considered old maids if they didn't marry by the age of twenty or so. So when people talk of 'children having children' I realize that it is a relatively new construct in our society. From Twain and the old Bobbsey Twins series, I learned how much society has moved in regards to our inter-racial relationships and how average Americans had been able to afford domestic help early in the century. I remember the first time I read Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and found it so odd that someone would think it was strange a person would conceal their identity by pretending to be black. That was in the late '60's and the book was written in 1966! But Heinlein was born in 1907. His books carried some of his old beliefs. And I lived in Colorado. Still, the book carried much of the ideas held by much of our society at the time of its writing.
There is gold to be found within the pages of these old books if you are interested in who average people were and what they believed. Find out what type of stories captivated youngsters and teens of a long forgotten day. Nancy Drew certainly had me, just as it had Sarah, another book reviewer. (See Sarah's review.)
I don't agree with the mores or morals or the right and wrong of bygone days necessarily. What I do want to preserve is the window into the true past.
Posted by Sunday Smith