“She was no longer just a person but a universe made of hundreds of little bits, a historical fictional literary figure character person idea grandma-girl-thing. I knew there were poems about her and picture books; I found out there were festivals, pageants, plays, websites, weblogs, authorized spin-off series books, unauthorized spin-off series books, dresses, cookbooks, newsletters, fan fiction, albums, homeschool curriculums, aprons, craft items, figurines, dollhouses.”
McClure calls this “Laura World,” and: “I wanted to go to Laura World; I wanted to visit the places where Laura Ingalls and her family had lived, in Wisconsin and Kansas and Minnesota and South Dakota and Missouri. All these years I hadn’t quite believed that the places in the books existed, but they did, and house foundations had been unearthed, and cabins reconstructed, and museums erected.” Beyond that, she wanted to immerse herself as deeply as possible in Laura World: “What was it like to wear a corset, or tap maple trees, or twist hay?”
So off she went on a series of Laura World adventures, usually accompanied by her boyfriend, Chris, who on the evidence here appears to be a person of preternatural patience; certainly he put up with a lot more of Laura World than most non-addicts could possibly tolerate. As a live-in boyfriend, this means he had to sample “syrup-on-snow candy”; “an authentic loaf of Long Winter bread” made from hand-ground wheat and hand-churned butter; “fried salt pork and gravy, apples ’n’ onions, and buttermilk biscuits”; vanity cakes and other frontier delights, not to mention accompany McClure on field trips to the numerous stations of Laura’s cross.
Not merely that, but he read his way through the entire “Little House” oeuvre, read it intelligently, asked thoughtful questions about it, and on the whole responded to it with what appears to be genuine enthusiasm. I dwell on this because despite the pleasure her own boyfriend took in these books, McClure is totally oblivious to the strong readership they have always attracted among boys and men. Several years ago, in a reconsideration I wrote of “Little House in the Big Woods,” the first book in the series, I recalled that “as a young boy in the 1940s I adored that book, and the eight others that followed” and made the point that “Wilder’s books are open and accessible to readers of both sexes.”