betsy in spite of myself

This summer I have been reading the Betsy-Tacy series, which is actually ten books, because I never read anything but the first four growing up. Perhaps I would have continued had the fifth book not always been missing from the public library (apparently it is frequently banned because Betsy converts from Baptism to Episcopalianism–scandalous!). But I probably wouldn’t have, because the character seemed less interesting growing up. I remember reading the first chapter of Betsy’s Wedding, the final book in the series, and then putting it down because it just seemed like a place that I was so not nearby.

Aaaanyway, so not the point. Now that I’m reading all of the older books, which begin the freshman year of high school and go until Betsy gets married (I’m on the second to last book, Betsy and the Great World, when she is 21), I’m realizing that I probably could have found something interesting in them even as a child, but they mean more now. Actually, the series is a bit like the Harry Potter series, in that you can’t really read them all at one age and understand them. You have to grow with them. Certainly this book is not written at a 21-year-old’s reading level, but it’s older than the first book, when Betsy is five. And there are nuances I definitely would not have gotten when I was a kid, though that’s okay. I think the best thing about “children’s books” is reading them again as an adult. It also might have served as a good guide to high school. Betsy seemed very much like me when I read her, and now I almost resent her a bit because she was so much more popular with boys and more social and more true to herself than I ever was as a high school student. But I still love her no matter what.

Still not the point. I could talk about these books forever. And I think these older ones would actually work well with the thesis I’m thinking of, which revolves around the bildungsroman. But what I wanted to talk about was Betsy and her use (or, more accurately, Maud Hart Lovelace’s use) of the term “in love.” It seems that it is only a postmodern thing to be really picky about that phrase. It’s kind of like how “fucking,” “having sex,” and “making love” mean specific and different things. We use “have a crush” and “like like” rather than use “in love,” which we assume is loaded. But what if it’s not? Betsy uses it for all the boys she’s ever been interested, all her beaux. In a week she can meet someone, like him, and then decide that “she wasn’t in love with him anymore.” And that’s that. Either it makes “in love” less meaningful than the way we use it, or actually it identifies the fact that people simply “love.” And whether you love for 10 years or 10 minutes, you love. And that’s all it is. No mincing words necessary. Just love, and stop loving when you’re done. Maybe we’re so obsessed with labeling and overdefining things that we miss how simple things are.

Makes me really excited to read this book. I’m really into sociology and its relation to literature lately.


2 thoughts on “betsy in spite of myself

  1. i loved those betsy-tacy books! i would borrow them from the library and i always liked how cute & floral the design of the books were too. i don’t think i picked up the ones where she’s grown up either. i think i should, thanks to you 🙂

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