A Writer Finds the Rare Lives of Two Rare Book Dealers Worth Singing About

by Neil Genzlinger


                -          “Bookends” “came about when the woman who took Sidney Poitier home for dinner met the                          rare-book dealers who exposed Louisa May Alcott’s dark secret.”

- “Bookends” tells the true story of Madeleine B. Stern and Leona Rostenberg, rare-book dealers in New York…. They proved that Alcott also wrote a far more scandalous brand of fiction, anonymously and under pseudonyms.”

-          “These were stories, as Ms. Stern put it in a 1995 interview, of “thuggism, feminism, hashish, transvestitism.

-          “The play was written by Katharine Houghton, who as an actress made an early impression as the daughter in the 1967 film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”

        -           The three women met in the 80s when Ms. Houghton was writing “To Heaven in a Swing: The Last Day in the Life of Louisa May Alcott.”

-          Ms. Houghton said. “’They were so full of enthusiasm for life, and their curiosity had never abated’….Ms. Houghton observed them at work, a germ of an idea formed for how to tell their tale on the stage.”

-          “ ‘This is a very interesting story. What does one do when two people have a business and come to the end of their life, and one wants to stop, and one doesn’t?’ ”

-          “It is an American story, not a revival or an import, something new and yet something old…We were drawn to the book, the music and the sophisticated lyrics — this is a rare occurrence.”

-          “Why choose the musical form to tell a story about two women who lived for the printed page? Because they are intellectual people, I thought it was very important to also make them emotional people,” Ms. Houghton said, “and the best way to make them emotional people was through song.”

Published: August 1, 2007
New York Times

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