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the girl with violets in her lap [userpic]

November 15th, 2012 (12:10 pm)

The other day I was rereading Akin to Anne, a posthumously collected anthology of stories about orphans by L.M. Montgomery. Now, I'm sure at least some of the readers of this journal (um, if there are any left :() are familiar with Montgomery's unfortunate propensity for saccharine, improbable plots in her not-so-good works, but this book is just beyond the pale. In order to exorcise it from my soul I decided to write true-to-life stories of what would actually happen to the orphans in these stories. I don't know if anyone who isn't overfamiliar with L.M. Montgomery will also find it funny, but what the hell.

With no further ado, here are

(all of them)

In “Marcella’s Reward”, a poor girl with a sick sister who needs to go to the country to recover encounters a very mean lady at work who keeps on berating her, but a lady who used to be her mother’s best friend doesn’t happen to be listening to her conversation and stay afterward to talk to her and then take Marcella and her sister to the country and adopt them. So they stay in the city and the sister dies, except that would probably have happened in the country anyway because country air isn’t full of medication.

In “Ted’s Afternoon Off”, a little prodigy of a violinist stays home to play the fiddle for a sick boy instead of going to the church picnic, but a professional violinist doesn’t happen to overhear him and decide to adopt him and give him lessons, so no one ever realizes how wonderful the boy’s playing is and eventually he grows up and becomes a storekeeper and only plays the violin on weekends. Also the sick boy probably dies because the prodigy violinist’s playing doesn’t have medicine in it either.

In “Freda’s Adopted Grave”, a little orphan girl who plants flowers on the abandoned grave of a forgotten embezzler doesn’t get found out by the sister of the embezzler who somehow never managed to get back to see her brother’s grave for 25 years but got back soon after Freda started taking care of the grave. So the lady doesn’t adopt Freda and Freda stays with her mean aunt and becomes embittered and is mean to her children when she grows up and then they are mean to their children and so on.

In “The Girl Who Drove the Cows”, the beautiful girl who drives the cows does not turn out to be related to the richest family in town and does not get adopted by them. So she settles into her job driving cows and doing farm work and eventually she isn’t beautiful anymore but no one cares because she’s just a farm girl anyway so whatever.

In “Why Not Ask Miss Price?”, nothing happens because this story from the title on is so fucking annoying that I refuse to recognize it as part of my reality.

In “Jane Lavinia,” Jane Lavinia the artist prodigy does not refuse to go to New York to develop her talent on account of hearing her stiff undemonstrative aunt crying about how she’ll miss Jane Lavinia once she goes, because Jane Lavinia is not an idiot.

In “The Running Away of Chester”, a little boy who runs away from his cruel abusive aunt and almost starves doesn’t happen to get a job in the nick of time, working for a wonderful kind woman who also happens to be his stepaunt once removed or something, so he doesn’t get adopted by her and live in bliss forever. He goes back to his cruel aunt once he’s on the brink of starvation and gets a beating for it, and after another seven or eight years of abuse he decides he hates the world and becomes a drunk when he grows up.

In “Millicent’s Double”, two girls who are not related do not turn out to look like identical twins because that doesn’t happen in reality. So the identical girl who is an orphan doesn’t go to a party pretending to be the other girl who is not an orphan, and she doesn’t feel horribly guilty later and confess her crime, which means she doesn’t tell the people who threw the party her real name and no one ever finds out that she’s the niece of a rich bachelor who would adopt her and take away all her cares forever if he knew. She just stays poor for the rest of her life and that’s all.

In “Penelope’s Party Waist”, a poor girl who wants desperately to go to a party but doesn’t have a dress decides to make one out of the lining of an old heirloom quilt that her aunt sent her, but at the party her kind grand-aunt that she never knew doesn’t recognize the material the dress is made out of and doesn’t come over to tell her how much she loved the girl’s grandmother and doesn’t adopt the girl. A gossip who recognizes the material writes a letter to the aunt who sent the girl the heirloom and the aunt gets furious and cuts the girl out of her will and the girl is poorer than before.

In “The Little Black Doll”, nothing changes because I love this story.

In “The Fraser Scholarship”, there is not a math competition where competitors whose last names are Fraser, Campbell or McLean receive preference over all the other competitors because that makes no sense at all. So the kid who wins the competition and whose stepfather’s name was Campbell but whose father’s name was Hanselpakker doesn’t have a huge moral crisis about accepting the award, and he never admits to his real name being Hanselpakker because seriously, Hanselpakker? So his long-lost rich aunt doesn’t recognize the last name and adopt him, so he doesn’t suddenly land in the lap of luxury, but he probably does okay by himself because he’s smart and hardworking. Good for you, little Hanselpakker.

In “Her Own People”, the orphan girl who is bitchy and embittered because she has no blood relatives that she knows of just gets more annoyed when this woman she hardly knows starts rattling on to her about how much God loves her and what a good and beautiful thing friendship is. So she doesn’t take the woman’s advice and doesn’t board for the summer at a house that turns out to be next door to where her dead mother’s relatives live, and she doesn’t lose all her bitterness and write a letter to the amateur evangelist talking about how much she loves God now. She goes somewhere else to board and remains embittered and eventually becomes an outspoken atheist and a big fan of HL Mencken and winds up being more interesting than any of the other characters in this book.

In “Miss Sally’s Company”, a sweet old lady who loves visitors and has like a million of them a week doesn’t pine away in sadness for a visit from two snotty girls who are her second cousins twice removed, because who the hell cares if your second cousins twice removed visit you or not, especially if they are snotty and obnoxious. So they don’t visit and she doesn’t care and there’s really no story but that’s okay because the story was stupid anyway.

In “The Story of an Invitation”, some girl who was invited to spend the summer with her aunt in the country gives her invitation to a poor, sickly orphan friend of hers, but it doesn’t turn out that a friend of the aunt is the sickly girl’s uncle and she doesn’t get adopted by him because SERIOUSLY enough with the damn long-lost relatives adopting people. The sickly girl probably becomes a teacher instead or something, I don’t know, she’s boring.

In “The Softening of Miss Cynthia” an old lady refuses to take in her dead brother’s child and sends him to be a live-in servant to a major asshole who works the boy almost to death. She repents of her actions when the boy gets really sick, but she doesn’t get to adopt him after all because he dies instead of getting better thanks to all the medicine and top-notch medical care she buys for him. So she feels guilty until the day she dies, just like a lot of people do about a lot of things.

In “Margaret’s Patient”, a healthy not-too-poor orphan girl who gives up her summer vacation to nurse a sickly very poor orphan girl doesn’t turn out to be related to her, thus eliminating two orphans with one stone, because WHAT THE HELL WHY WOULD SOMEONE ACTUALLY COLLECT ALL THESE IDENTICAL DUMBASS STORIES INTO ONE VOLUME, ARE WE SUPPOSED TO NOT NOTICE THAT THEY ARE ALL THE EXACT SAME STORY OR SOMETHING

In “Charlotte’s Ladies”, a little girl in an orphanage doesn’t happen to find two holes in the boundary fence of the orphanage, or if she does they just look out on a bunch of trees and ugly bracken instead of one looking out on the home of a woman who looks just like the mother of her dreams and the other one looking out on the home of a woman who looks just like the aunt of her dreams. So the two women don’t turn out to be sisters who both want to adopt her and move in together and blah blah blah fill in the blanks to get to the happily ever after. The little girl just grows up in the orphanage and becomes a teacher or a nurse or something, and she copes with having been an orphan because that’s pretty much what orphans do, just like the rest of us.

And that’s what happens to all the orphans in real life.


Posted by: Heidi (sioneva)
Posted at: November 15th, 2012 05:59 pm (UTC)

This is why I love the Emily books so - LM is so scathing about bad writing that embarrasses Emily when she re-reads it that you KNOW LM is speaking from bitter personal experience of regretting past shit ;)

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: November 15th, 2012 10:13 pm (UTC)

I know, right? I know she used to burn stories and poems she wrote that she was embarrassed by later, but I don't know what she could do when they were published before she realized they were terrible. She published SO MANY SHORT STORIES and SO MANY of them were total crap. (No, I didn't download all 300-whatever to them to my phone because they were free and then read them all in three days when I was sick, why would you think that?) It's funny with the Emily books though because by the time Emily is in her 20s, her stories are clearly more daring and more interesting than almost any that LMM wrote. Perhaps LMM had a buried sense of her inadequacies (or, more probably, her laziness)?

Posted by: Heidi (sioneva)
Posted at: November 15th, 2012 10:32 pm (UTC)

I don't know about laziness so much as maybe a lack of confidence? Given her own mental health issues, it wouldn't surprise me at all if she opted to write things that she knew would sell over taking risks - after all, unlike Emily, she didn't have a rich family that would keep her living in style while she took risks writing stuff.

And I doubt she had any illusions of being the writer of the Next Great Canadian Novel or whatever. She did, however, manage to bring a lot of joy to a lot of people, so I can't fault her for also writing a lot of dreck :)

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: November 15th, 2012 10:51 pm (UTC)

What's funny is a lot of bipolar writers, in their manic phases, are like ALL THE RISKS ALL THE TIME!, which sometimes winds up as incoherent junk but sometimes winds up being interesting. But a lot of her books are more interesting and creative than her stories, so maybe she wrote her books when she was on the higher side of the spectrum and settled into writing stories in her dreary but not totally depressed phases -- like many bipolar folks, she couldn't write at all when really depressed, but I wouldn't be surprised if she put out a lot of her safe, sparkle-free short stories when she wasn't feeling great. I know she refers to Emily churning out "potboilers" and "getting in a rut" when she's going through some dreary phases of her own, and Emily's fairly autobiographical.

And she seemed to inhabit this weird space between assessing her skills as, you know, a popular author with a flair for charm, local color, and vernacular but not someone who was going to be "the next Bronte" but simultaneously editing all her diaries fiercely with the quite open aim of leaving them in good shape to be published after her death. Maybe those were phases influenced by her bipolar, but they give the impression of coexisting consistently throughout her life. (It also makes her diaries way less interesting and leaves me pining for the sections she burned.)

And, yes, I'm very much a fan of hers as well and turn to her a lot when I'm blue. Hence my rereading Akin to Anne. :) (I turned to The Blue Castle today and it's soooooooo much better.)

Posted by: Ponykins (rolypolypony)
Posted at: November 15th, 2012 05:59 pm (UTC)


Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: November 15th, 2012 10:14 pm (UTC)


Posted by: Pythian Habenero (lienne)
Posted at: November 15th, 2012 09:02 pm (UTC)
ed norton: TinyNorton approves!!!


this is an excellent post and you should be proud :D

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: November 15th, 2012 10:14 pm (UTC)

I'm really glad you liked it! I was worried no one would get it, or care, anyway. :)

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: November 15th, 2012 10:56 pm (UTC)

The stories are so silly and some of them really are a good escape -- even some of the objectively crappy ones, like the last one about the orphan who sees her perfect mother and her perfect aunt through the holes in the fence, are charming in that distinctly LMM way. But in Akin to Anne there really is a hefty serving of stories that are not just all the same, they're REALLY BORING. No one should ever have compiled them all into a single volume, really.

Still, I couldn't quite advise that you NOT read the book, because I had a pretty good deal of fun with it even though half of it was boring. :) And actually, you should be able to find almost all of them on Project Gutenberg, because almost all of them should be all out of copyright by now.

Posted by: Pirate Jenny (deliriums_fish)
Posted at: November 16th, 2012 06:35 am (UTC)
bebe eyes

Shout! Out! At least by LMM. Um. Post-mortem.
And I read you! You should come back more often!

Posted by: Pirate Jenny (deliriums_fish)
Posted at: November 16th, 2012 06:38 am (UTC)
bebe pink hiding

I should clarify that the shoutout was not post-mortem. She was alive and clearly thinking of my future existence when she wrote it. It's just...well...she's dead now.

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: November 16th, 2012 07:00 pm (UTC)

I was really confused by this at first because I was like "wait, shoutout? Where? Did Marcy just get adopted by a rich long-lost relative?" And then I went back to reread to see if I could find the shoutout and it was, you know, the second word. I'm slow but I get there in the end! (Also, I totally thought of you while reading that story.)

I'm glad you're here! I got more comments than I expected. Maybe LJ isn't as dead as I thought! I should contribute to its non-dying by coming back more often!

Posted by: Hello. (bbsy)
Posted at: November 19th, 2012 03:38 am (UTC)

Those poor, white Prince Edward Island kids who didn't curry the favor of other white, yet wealthy people with their lack of charming mannerisms gained from constantly being beaten down by life.

(Despite my cynicism, I actually read just about everything in the Anne of Green Gables series, and loved it.)

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