Monday, April 03, 2006

"Janet! Donkeys!"

Happy Monday, everyone. Seduced by persuader par excellence Barbara Bader, I spent much of my weekend enthralled in David Copperfield (a la audiobook). Why did I dodge it until now? (Is anyone up for a game of--what is it called?--that reverse-snob competition where you name books you haven't read but are positive everyone else has? In a children's book version, I would make my opening gambit with something by Rosemary Sutcliff.) My acquaintance with Dickens is very spotty, not much beyond Great Expectations (in 7th grade) and "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol." I think I was afraid David Copperfield would be alternatingly dismal and jolly, but the compass of tone is fully rounded, and the story is most agreeably eventful, with both plot and tone turning on a dime. I'm up to David's meeting his formidable aunt--so quite a ways to go, a happy prospect.

13 comments:

JeanneB said...

Silas Marner! Though I've read and loved almost all of the rest of George Eliot. In children's books -- I blush -- Wind in the Willows. What does that admission get me kicked out of?

JeanneB said...

By the way, Roger, is it possible that your aversion to Dickens comes from being forced to read Great Expectations in seventh grade? My stomach still hurts when I think about those classic short stories they force-fed us in school -- O. Henry, anyone?

If you feel like going further with Dickens, Bleak House is extraordinary.

mwt said...

The Chocolate War, even though Betsy assigned it. and I'm not going to read it, so there.

rindambyers said...

I read Dickens like I read Tolkien, skip parts I find boring, just enjoy myself. Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby are a couple of favorites, lots of humor in those two. It seems to me you have great delights in store for you! I have not read "Frankenstein!"

sdl said...

Though I have read David Copperfield several times along with most other Dickens, I confess to not having read quite a few of the children's literature canon. The one I really DO keep meaning to read is The Chocolate War.

I doubt that many kids are being turned off to Dickens in school these days, because I doubt they are reading it. My older son had to read The Yellow Wallpaper twice in high school("You know what happens in The Yellow Wallpaper? NOTHING!!!) but not one word of Dickens, Hemingway or Fitzgerald in his entire 4 years.

Congrats on beginning Dickens! What could be better than finding an author you like who has written so much?

Jonathan Shaw said...

The game is known as Humiliation, and I would expect to win outright in any children's literature gathering: I haven't read _Charlotte's Web_.

Roger Sutton said...

Jonathan probably does win, but can I place with not having read (or seen) How the Grinch Stole Christmas?

And Jonathan--any plans to catch up, or has not having read CW become your expected party piece? ;-)

fern said...

Old Curiosity Shop fascinated me because I could tell that Dickens was making it up as he went along. As I recall, one character who looks very ominous in early chapters emigrates to Australia and never re-enters the narrative: apparently Dickens didn't need him after all. I've listened to Great Expectations, and know the exhilaration of realizing that there's so much more of it to enjoy. I keep trying to read Pickwick Papers, my sweetie's fave, but can't get past the first ghost story.

As for canonical child lit, does it count if I can't figure out whether or not I've read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe? If I can get through this year without being embarrassed into (re?)-reading it, I should be able to go the distance.

Jane said...

I resisted Jane Austen for years. Finally two years ago, I read PRIDE & PREJUDICE on the train between Edinburgh and London and return. And loved it.

Or at least was near to the end when a man several seats ahead fell over dead. Two EMTs and a doctor on the train worked on him in the aisle for twenty minutes. When they gave up, they covered him with a white linen tablecloth from the dining car. Another ten minutes later and we came to a station where he was offloaded.

May have spoiled the rest of Austen for me forever. Certainly ruined the mood.

Jane

PS Never able to get through the tweeness of "The Little Prince." Does that make me a terrible children's book person?

Roger Sutton said...

Jane--I read The Little Prince in high school, where we were all taken by its "wisdom." (Like Unitarians sermonizing on The Giving Tree.) I don't think either book is really a children's book, but both get their status by appearing as such. I was going to say that no one would take them seriously if published as adult books but then I remembered Jonathan Livingston Seagull . . .

rindawriter said...

Dear me, perhaps I can drag in at fourth or sixth place, here...I have never read "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" nor "Tuck Everlasting," and I confess that I have no desire either to ever read either one...but I like "The Little Prince," even if it's not a book for children.

Jane said...

NOW NOW Rindawriter, you have stepped on a major toe. I am a TUCK EVERLASTING fanatic.


Hands--how many here have actually read REMEMBRANCES OF THINGS PAST?

How many have read Maia Wochahosky's LIFE AND DEATH OF A BRAVE BULL? It's Hemmingway lite, and turns on the flawed premise that the bull is thrilled to go bravely to his death. (And how does one spell her name anyway?)

Jane

Andy Laties said...

Well -- ya caught me. I never got beyond "Swann's Way". (I do sell the graphic novel version of Proust though...I believe it caused a scandal in France upon release.)

(Incidentally, the other day, in the book "The Sexual Labyrinth of Nikolai Gogol", I stumbled across this fascinating and possibly debatable statement about Proust: the author is discussing Proust's literary approach to the need to keep his sexual orientation secret and yet write emotionally honest fiction. "When Marcel Proust found himself faced with the same problem he resorted to the strategem of disguising certain of his originally male characters as females, so that his hero could be involved emotionally not with Gilbert, but with Gilberte, not with a heterosexual man named Albert, but with a lesbian named Albertine.")

Whether it's true or not it makes entertaining literary criticism.