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Dealing With Too Much

There’s a chapter in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women wherein Marmee encourages all four girls to do whatever they want for several days, rather than having them maintain the usual industrious March family habits.

Jo, the sister who seemed most like me, spent her extravagant leisure time reading in a tree (did I mention that I identified with her?), and found that the unrestrained frivolity of constant reading gave her a headache.

As a 9-year-old reading the novel for the first time, reaching this early plot point was when I realized that Alcott was doing quite a bit of moralizing with her tale of four sisters. What kind of monster would suggest that constant reading could be anything other than joyous?

In the 30+ years since