Friday, May 26th, 2006
I am reading Dickens' Bleak House now -- it is a book that has been on my shelf for many years, one that was spoken of very highly on the Pynchon-l and that I've always been resolved to read sometime. It's proving easier going than I expected, with plenty of laughs and a plot that is only occasionally obscure. But there are so many characters! It's a little hard to keep track of who, say, Mr. Guppy is, who has not been mentioned in the past 50 pages or so, when he pops up.
So the Unofficial Moomin Characters Guide has given me an idea -- a general purpose, web-based database utility for keeping track of characters in a book or series of books. I don't think this would be very difficult to do and it seems like it would come in handy.
Thursday, July 20th, 2006
At the party last night, Roy reminded me of my initial aim in starting this blog (and this website in general), which was to write about the books I am reading. Well, and, right now I am reading one that I'm finding just lovely, very moving, to wit Dickens' Bleak House.
It is hardly the perfect book I suppose -- I find myself thinking as I read it that there are too many lucky coincidences -- and I think I will notice even more such when I reread it and have the various threads of narrative more firmly in mind. I think that is the principal failing of the story. But with disbelief suspended, what a lovely story it is! The poetry of Dickens' language and the acerbity of his wit make for a world I can spend all day thinking about.
Also: I think the story is very sentimental in places; but it is sentimental in such a way that I respond emotionally, which I am finding pretty unusual. I felt a tear in my eye when Jo was dying -- when I was talking with LizardBreath last night she said she didn't really respond to that, Jo was just the poor orphan who dies, rather than a fully human character; and I could see what she meant, sort of -- but it worked on me. So whatever.
Next up: A White Bear is going to be conducting a discussion of Tristram Shandy. So I will read it! I started to back in 1999, it was the very first book written about on this web site. So here I am full circle! Nice.
Friday, July 21st, 2006
I realized this morning, why I have such a strong visual picture of Lady Dedlock -- she is the only character in Bleak House who I really feel like I can see her face, or at least for whom the image of her face remains constant. This morning (oddly at the moment when Esther beheld her dead) I figured out the face I am seeing is Margaret Dumont's! And I think she would be a well-cast in the role of Lady Dedlock. Great! Groucho can be John Jarndyce and Chico will shine as George Rouncewell; and Harpo I can see in no other role than that of Dr. Woodcourt. It would be a beautiful movie.
Update: Also, Zeppo as Richard Carstone.
Sunday, July 23rd, 2006
So I found the last hundred pages or so of Bleak House really unsatisfying. The quality which I think had really drawn me in about the rest of the book -- which was the airy, meandering way of storytelling, the tangential ramblings along the various paths of the story which led seemingly by accident to the revelation of some connection, somehow furthering the plot -- disappeared and was replaced by a driving, all-too-visible narrative structure. The last really affecting moment in the story, for me, was the discovery of Lady Dedlock's body. -- And even by then it had lost a lot of what I was reading for.
But the two things which really put me off about the ending were Mr. Jarndyce's bequeathing of Esther unto Allan -- which just took the inhuman quality of their relationship about three steps too far for me -- and the final chapter, in which Esther sounds like a sanctimonious prig.
I liked the resolution of the court case a lot; but the discovery of a new will among Krook's papers really added nothing, really seemed like a lame excuse for a little extra suspense at the end.
Saturday, May 15th, 2010
I wonder how much J.K. Rowling's diction actually resembles Charles Dickens', and how much that is a figment of my imagination inspired by their nationality and by the audio book format. I've been listening to Bleak House on tape for the last few days, and loving it (though to be honest, I don't think I would be digging it as much if I had not read the book already); my previous experience with audio books is mostly overhearing the Harry Potter books that Sylvia listens to from noon to night... but the expressions (and the characters' names) in Bleak House are definitely reminding me of Rowling! To be sure, Robert Whitfield (who is reading Bleak House) has a similar voice to Jim Dale's, and similar affectations -- I wonder if the creaky old-person's voice is a standard element of audiobook-reader training...
Anyway, I got the idea that Sylvia might enjoy reading Dickens. So when we were at the bookstore today, I bought her a copy of David Copperfield, which neither of us has read, which I am hoping she will read and recommend to me... Virginia Woolf called it, in a pull-quote on the back cover, "the most perfect of all the Dickens novels."
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