02 September 2009


I have been re-reading Bleak House (well - listening to it) over the last few weeks. It's a novel I've admired for a long time, but I haven't made it through a re-read since my early twenties.

I am largely enjoying it, but I don't think Dickens had a very good grasp on female friendship. All Esther and Ada seem to do is call each other "dear one" and "my darling" and it's just cloying and fake. I don't really enjoy Louisa May Alcott more than Dickens but I do think she's got a better grasp on the way women interact with each other. Dickens kind of gets women wrong anyway, throughout his books. (I need to re-read Little Dorrit and I've never read The Old Curiosity Shop, but there's a plethora of evidence just in the books I've re-read in the last couple of years - Kate in Nicholas Nickleby, Dora in Great Expectations- all his women are either penitent sinners, brainless saints or the target of satire.)

But everything else is good and I'm enjoying the re-read a lot. He plots so well, and I forgive him for some of the schmaltz he deploys because it's often in service of social justice. And he's really funny. I mean, he's not writing with the wonderful subtlety of Henry James but he's not trying to, either. Henry James is sort of like NPR anyway - really great stuff, and all smart and well-intentioned (although Henry James definitely doesn't try as hard to be liked as NPR does) and a little prideful - and after a while, a total downer. (Trollope is actually my favorite of the Victorian men - he's funny AND subtle and he gets women. The politics could possibly be dry unless you are the kind of person who is fascinated by office politics, as I am, in which case you won't find it dry at all.)


Lisa said...

I think if Henry James had come out with some nice tote bags he would have had it all over NPR.

seppaku said...

Oooh, Dickens!

I had a professor in college who was a renowned expert on 1) Charles Dickens and 2) Jimi Hendrix. WPI actually has a good collection of Dickens manuscripts because of him.


In one of his classes, we read David Copperfield in installments, as it was originally published. It's an interesting way to read his work!

Maya said...

Totally with you on Trollope. Except there usually are a at least two characters I want to hit over the head with a log in any Trollope novel. Then again, that's sort of the point of Trollope.

Cara deBeer said...

I bet NPR actually makes Henry James totebags, or has, at some point. Heh.

No one I talk to in my everyday life enjoys reading the victorians at all - so nice to see that other people (albeit geographically far flung ones) besides me does.