Book of th Month Club – Gene Stratton Porter’s “Freckles”‘s Freckles

BLOG #29, SERIES #4
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH SERIES #21
GENE STRATTON PORTER’S FRECKLES
July 17, 2013

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During the first half of the twentieth century, three authors ruled America’s Fictional world: Zane Grey, Harold Bell Wright, and Gene Stratton Porter (Zane Grey as numero uno, and Wright and Porter fighting it out for second place).

Their wholesome romances have stood the test of time–just ask any knowledgeable bookseller. So have prices for their books.

Since three of Grey titles have already been chosen as club options, and one of Wright’s, it is high time I introduce you to the third of the triumvirate.

I’ve always loved Porter’s books, re-reading them again and again during my growing-up years. I wrote a 64-page biography of Gene Stratton Porter for the edition of Freckles I created for the Focus on the Family/Tyndale House Great Books Series. Before writing it, I read Porter clear through, a number for the first time. Not surprisingly, the short biography took most of a year to write.

Little Geneva, the youngest of twelve children, was born to Mark and Mary Stratton on August 17, 1863, in Indiana, during America’s Civil War. She was very much a surprise, for Mark was fifty and his wife forty-seven; and neither of them had any desire to start another child through life at that age. Since six years separated Geneva from her closest sibling, she would grow up the center of her parents’ lives.

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Her father, a lay minister for the Methodist Episcopal Church, had a prodigious memory, having memorized the entire Bible, except for the begats. Since twice each day, he would read from the Bible to the family, the rhythm of the King James translation became part of the very fiber of each child. “Geneva inherited her father’s worship of beauty–be it in faces, souls, hearts, landscapes, trees, or flowers. His orchard was a tapestry in the spring with apple white in the middle and apricot pink on the edges. His entire farm, from out buildings, barn, and carriage on down, was kept as immaculate as his wife kept the house.” (Wheeler’s Freckles, xx).

As for her mother, perhaps the greatest legacy the mother passed on to her daughter was the magic she had with all growing things. From both parents, the little girl gained her deep love for nature, especially for the then great Limberlost forests, encompassing much of Indiana.

After growing up and marrying, Geneva incorporated this spirituality and love of nature and family into her novels. Five of her books became bestsellers: Freckles (1904), The Girl of the Limberlost (1909), The Harvester (1911), Laddie (1913), and Michael O’Halloran. Children growing up in America’s Golden Age of Print who read, or were read to, from Porter’s books, couldn’t help but incorporate both the values and the love of nature woven into the fabric of each book.

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As for Freckles, I quote from the back of my Focus/Tyndale edition:

“Crippled and abandoned at birth, will he ever find someone who loves him as he is?

“Deep into a majestic, untamed forest called the Limberlost wanders an orphaned young man known only as ‘Freckles.’ Arriving at the logging camp of Mr. McLean, he convinces the skeptical Scotsman to hire him to guard the prized lumber–though Freckles has no experience, no family and just one hand.

“Despite harsh conditions and long hours, Freckles grows to love this untouched piece of nature–and the Swamp Angel, a beautiful girl he meets who has everything he lacks. Though she is kind to him, he knows he cannot hope to win her heart. Suddenly, his character is changed by a lumberman plotting to steal from Mr. McLean. Freckles’ honor wins him the love of the people who have now become his family, leading him to discover the answer to his past–and his future. Freckles is an unforgettable story of love, courage and adventure.”

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I’m confident that it will take but this one book by Gene Stratton Porter to hook you for life on her story-people. There are many many editions of this book out there available from Amazon, the world-wide web, Bluebird Books in Denver, and other used book stores. Her primary publisher was Doubleday, Page and Company (1904). It is still possible to find first editions in near-fine condition and dust-jacketed reprints. Should you wish a copy of my now out-of-print Freckles (Focus on the Family/Tyndale House, 2000), I still have new copies of our First Edition at $16.00 (plus $5.00 shipping; or $6.00 for priority). Let me know if you’d like me to inscribe the book to you.

You can see the books on our web page: http://www.joewheelerbooks.com.

Send me an email at: mountainauthor@gmail.com.

Happy reading!

IN PRAISE OF OLD MAGAZINES

BLOG #10, SERIES 4
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
IN PRAISE OF OLD MAGAZINES
March 6, 2013

During the last couple of years the chances are excellent that at any given moment, day or night, I could have been found leafing through, or reading an old magazine. Far more likely than immersion in a book.

Why? Because it is in old magazines that the greatest stories ever written are most likely to be found. During the Golden Age of Print in America (1880s through the 1950s), magazine was king. During much of that time, magazine editors paid writers more for a given story or book manuscript than movie producers or publishing house editors. This is why the appearance of a given story in a magazine normally predated its appearance in a book.

If you were a child or a teen during that Golden Age, you had ever so many choices: long-lived magazines such as The Youth’s Companion (a weekly for over a hundred years), St. Nicholas (a monthly from 1873 to 1939), The Youth’s Instructor (a weekly for over a hundred years), Little Folks, Girl’s Own, Boy’s Own, Young People’s Weekly, Boys World, Girls’ Companion, Jack and Jill, just to name a few.

During that time period, there was an unspoken consensus in the adult world that children were to be protected from obscenities, the dark side of human nature, and printed material that would degrade or disillusion. The flip side was that since America, since its founding, was built on Judeo-Christian bedrock, authors who could memorably articulate those values in their stories and books became household words across the nation, in the Commonwealth, and in the Western World. Recognizing that children would become their favorite stories, parents everywhere religiously conducted daily story hours since the values in these magazines and books could be internalized in the hearts and souls of their listening children. And it worked!

Not so today. Today, when the Christian community is, more often than not, on the defensive, with a secular media vastly out programming it, parents everywhere feel overwhelmed. How can they prevent their children from being destroyed by a society that is openly hostile to Christianity?

I submit that Story is the answer. The stories that once could be found in most every household—but today are crumbling out of existence in old magazines that are being lost to posterity at an alarming rate. Indeed, so fast are these wonderful priceless old magazines being cut up, destroyed, hauled out to the dump, that they will soon be all but extinct.

And this is why my wife Connie and I have dedicated what’s left of our lives to preserving as many as possible of the best of these long ago treasure chests of stories. Sixty-six of our eighty books so far are story anthologies—and most originated in old magazines.

And that’s why, day and night, we are racing against time to preserve as many stories as possible before God calls us home.