Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Harriet the Spy (1964)

Because Choo is awesome and also buys many books she somehow ended up with two copies of Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy (1964). This means that now I am the proud owner of the extra copy. Yay!

Like many a young girl, I loved this book when I was a kid. And even though I'm a horrible journal writer, it made me attempt to keep one on many many many occasions, and may still be responsible for my lack of control when it comes to buying new notebooks that I then proceed to never write anything in. I know for sure that it inspired game number two in my list of weird games I made up as a kid.

The book is still pretty awesome, although I don't think I picked up on all of Harriet's flaws when I was a kid. And she (and her family, and her neighbors, and her friends) is pretty flawed -- just like people are in reality (except me). I also didn't pick up on some very odd scenes. For example, in the second scene of the book, Ole Golly -- Harriet's nanny -- whisks Harriet and her friend Sport away for an unannounced visit to Ole Golly's mother's house. Harriet's family is rich (that is why they have a nanny), and Ole Golly's mother is poor. But she is also a little touched in the head. And the whole potential lesson of being grateful for what you have and thinking about others is kind of lost in the weirdness of the situation.

Later in the book Harriet's mother asks her if she "went to the bathroom" as she is leaving for school and Harriet yells back "no" and hurries to class. Then she has a day at school where things happen, including her overhearing some other girls talk about her while she is in a bathroom stall. Then she runs home:

First she went to the bathroom because she hadn't in the morning, and when she was sitting there she wrote in her notebook:

I LOVE MYSELF


Okay, Harriet is taking a shit, right? I love that.

[There is a good article about the book here, which also includes a little plot summary and some lovely quotes.]

8 comments:

chewtastic said...

we need to find sport and the long secret. harriet spies again was AWFUL. the point of HTS was that louise fitzhugh does not talk down to the reader, and that things happen that cannot be affected or rectified by the reader. i don't care if helen ericson got the okay from fitzhugh's estate, she fucked it up.

if you are going to write a sequel where you have knocked up ole golly and dragged her back from montreal and george waldenstein, then you need to observe the rules of continuity when barging into this world.

if harriet is now only starting SEVENTH GRADE, there are NO FUCKING CORDLESS PHONES OR RECYCLING. ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS? RECYCLING? harriet. m. welsch. the tomato-sandwich eater. asking why someone would judge them, for they recycle. mind = blown. it's the UWS in the mid-Sixties, for fuck's sake.

next, you didn't bother to read the other books. the second paragraph of sport explains: "I'm eleven. I'll be twelve next month." so you've knackered it as well, seeing as how he inherits a ton of money, yet in harriet spies again, there is no mention of this.

the long secret takes place in harriet's twelfth summer; therefore if you are attempting to write a book that takes place in the FALL, perhaps you should at least acknowledge recent events when talking about beth ellen.

a coincidence of note: both DFW and fitzhugh were 46 when they died.

chewtastic said...

the second "reader" ought to be "heroine." i am not paying attention either, apparently.

Shawna said...

I remember LOVING this book as a kid and picked it up again at a used book store only a couple of years ago (for sentimental reasons, of course! Me? have poor taste? Never!) Anyway, when I re-read it, I also had a few moments where I questioned the character oddities and situations. To make a long story short, the book wasn't how I remembered it when I was a mere youngin'. Nothing really ever is, I'm learning as I go along. These days, I try not to fall victim to my feelings of nostalgia. I LOVED your theory on Harriet dropping a deuce though :-B
Nicely done...

Joolie said...

I really liked it too, and I was amazed at how good it still was when I read it as an adult. I think I have The Long Secret. It's not as satisfying but is still fun to read. I'll see if I can't find it and pass it along to you literary ladies.

chewtastic said...

the long secret is, horror of horrors, nearly more pleasurable than HTS. i brought it back to work today but alas, did not take the crucial step (or literal steps) of RETURNING the book to joolie.

Spacebeer said...

Oooh, I would joyfully give The Long Secret a shot. But no hurry because I've got like 50 other books in my stack.

jlowe said...

I remember liking the book, but I am LOVING the cover of your book. Great design and colors.

Spacebeer said...

The copy I have is actually a hardcover that is missing its dustjacket, so I had to guess on which of the covers went with it originally. I'm pretty sure it was the one pictured, but even if it isn't, that's my favorite one too...