Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch

Alison Arngrim's memoir of her Little House on the Prairie days, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated, is pretty different from my usual reading fare, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it!

Fast-paced and chock full of gossip about her co-stars on Little House, I read the book in record time and emerged a full-blown fan of Arngrim's own grit, spunk, humor, and tenacity. She recounts a pretty horrific childhood (i.e., space-cadet Hollywood-struck parents and an abusive older brother)without whining, blaming, or second-guessing and quickly moves on to life on the set, which, let's face it, is what I really wanted to read about.

I never watched the TV show, not as a kid, not as an adult. I loved the LH books and when the show premiered I knew that it couldn't really recreate the books I loved so I decided not to watch it.

Now, I confess I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't. Much as I love my sacred cows, I also love campy, over the top, playing to the back-row stuff as well, and Arngrim's description of many of the episodes and characters (as developed by Michael Landon) sound simply delightful. I loved Arngrim's description of her acting--basically screaming, pouting, and wrestling (usually in muddy water) with Melissa Gilbert, playing Laura. Turns out Gilbert and Arngrim became best buds immediately, and the pictures of the two of them clowning around are just wonderful.

I also found fascinating Arngrim's stories about some fans of the show basically not being able to grasp that she isn't actually Nellie, but rather an actor playing a part. That some fans of the show feel no hesitation to berate her for Nellie's behavior just makes me shake my head--it's a good thing Arngrim has such a good sense of humor!

I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir--it's hilarious, interesting, and yes, inspiring. I'm actually considering starting to watch the Little House series, though when, I can't imagine!

Here's a clip of Arngrim you might enjoy--it's actually a pretty good preview of the book itself.


  1. Ever since I heard about this book I've wanted to read it, though it is pretty outside of my usual reading purview as well. I did watch the show as a child, almost religiously, but never read the books (a failure I expect the birth of my daughter to eventually rectify). Nellie Oleson was my favorite character. Granted, I was a big time sucker for a pretty dress, and her's were the prettiest, but she was the source of all the shows humor. I still routed for Laura to triumph, but seeing Nellie get tossed in the mud is what kept me tuning in. Thanks for the enthusiastic review - I'm adding the book to my Amazon cart now.

  2. Hi
    Well this review made me make one more Amazon purchase before I give up buying books, even cheapo secondhand books, for Lent!! Yep, 40 days of no book buying.
    You have a great blog - a very similar taste in books to me. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Alexa - Alison talks about the dresses in the book. The purple striped one was her favorite, and the two Melissas basically wore a couple of raggy dresses for the first couple of seasons. She also talks about the wig! Worth reading just for that description.

  4. I was a complete nut for both the books and the TV show when I was a kid, but you're instincts were right that they are totally different animals. The show was good over-the-top fun with some surprisingly touching moments sprinkled throughout. I hadn't given much thought to reading this as its also outside my usual reading purview, but the fact that you enjoyed it even without having watched the show has me tempted.

  5. Nellie! Oh we hated her! I can really comfortably have the books and the show side by side because I see them really as two very different things. I'm totally getting this book. the video clip was great!

  6. I saw Arngrim interviewed locally and she seems like a real hoot! I'll have to be on the lookout for his book. I always likes me a good wig story.

    Thanks, Jane.