Jane Peranteau courageously offers this dialogue. She can’t be sure who she was talking with, any more than I ever can. But remember, that isn’t the right question The right questions are, “Does it resonate?” and “What can I do with the information?” BTW, Ms. Alcott’s father, Amos Bronson Alcott, was a very advanced thinker, a close friend of Thoreau and Emerson.
Louisa May Alcott
June 1, 2018
JP: I’ve felt a resonance with you lately, though I’ve long been a fan. I’ve believed we have a connection of some sort, and I’ve considered you a part of my literature-as-religion pantheon. I know I was deeply moved by the first reading of your book, Little Women, as so many millions are. I wonder if you have any interest in a conversation? (This is inspired by Frank DeMarco’s model of communicating with those he feels a resonance with who happen to be beyond the grave.)
LMA: Well, yes, of course I would be. You flatter me by asking. Would that I’d thought of such a thing while I was alive! Think whom I could have talked with! My father would have loved it. It would have taken him deeper into his Eastern philosophies. He could have talked to the masters. As could I have—Shakespeare, Dante, Schubert, so many. Why me, now, though? What have I to offer a woman of your times, so “advanced” of ours?
JP: We’re (especially women) still in need of your courage, more than ever, and the wisdom behind it.
LMA: Humanity still suffers from a comprehensive and peculiarly short-sighted version of exclusion. I say “peculiar” because personal economics can often override it, whether it’s the wealth of a woman or Negro or Samarkand. Money talks and talks loudly, but so does poverty/the lack of money. It’s just easier to ignore. After all, it’s in that other part of town. When we pushed for the vote for women, it was in hopes of improving their lot. Most didn’t see that, so we struggled alone, the few of us. But I couldn’t have not struggled.
JP: That’s what I mean—that spirit, of taking up the cause.
LMA: Its built into you. I had it as a child, if wronged. Later, I was able to channel it for a greater good, though I still wore people out with it! That energy just boiled through me, and I was forever having to put it into a barrel of will that could contain it for the preservation of my relationships. It takes a big energy to fight the fight—a constant vigilance. It finally wore even me out.
JP: That your father preceded you in death by two days is particularly powerful to me. Your connection must have been deep.
LMA: We had an unusual understanding about our life together. We held a bond forged early. We expanded each other’s limits—when at our best and not at odds. It’s as if we held the door for each other, whenever we could, as he did for me at death. I walked through to a sure welcome on the other side. I understood it all much better when I started writing/when the writing took hold of me and drove me, day and night, like a maniacal force over which you can exercise little control. It’s a love/hate sort of thing.
JP: With me, it’s more of a love thing, because all’s right with the world when I’m writing. Not that it always goes well.
LMA: There’s a naiveté to that view of it. Yes, there’s the utter relief of doing it, getting it down, on paper. But there is also the desperation for success. So much depended on my success for so long. I felt it, tasted it, knew it was mine, if I but worked hard enough. If I didn’t get there, it would be no one else’s fault but mine, as all would know. I had to have success. My life, not just those of others, depended on it.
JP: It seemed as if there was joy, at least some of the time. Even though you were said to have been glad when you’d written the last of the March family. There was real joy in some of those stories.
LMA: It almost/did seem like cheating to me, to write simple, even silly stories of our lives. I couldn’t imagine others would find them interesting or satisfying. We were poor, unexciting, often dreary, except for Mother. I didn’t think I was telling them [the readers] anything most of them didn’t know. But people loved those stories. I see that now. They had a hunger for them (and me) that was almost insatiable, which was unrelenting if not actually frightening. It creates (a prison) from which there is no release, even after death.
JP: Did it make you look at your family differently?
LMA: It was startling and somewhat confusing at first. But I’m always a bit surprised at my own success. I wonder each time if it will really happen again. But I knew I had a gift for it.
JP: I’ll stop for now but hope to check in again, if that’s okay.
LMA: Call on me, please, when it suits. I’ll be there as I can.
JP: Thank you so much for this. I’m really moved by it. You do me a great honor.
LMA: The honor is in your asking. Till we meet again.