Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Dangerously Reading v. 1
As I mentioned last month, one of my favorite books in 2007 was Mister Pip. In particular, I liked the charming relationship the young narrator had with Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. Because I had never even glanced at a Dickens' work I was feeling a tad left out. Shortly after reading the book, I came across the Year of Reading Dangerously challenge. The first book? Great Expectations! Convenient. I signed up. Picked up the most "classically" looking edition from the library and set off.

Despite the authentic aesthetic appeal of the book, the reading experience fell short of the romantic version I had imagined.

Imagined [romantic] reading experience:
Me. Classical looking book. Cups of tea. Reading journal. Lots of scribbling down intense passages that I loved. Late night reading affair with Dickens'. Experience capped off with thoughtful reflection about how much I learned about literature from Dickens. *slight reading glow*

Actual reading experience:
Me. Classical looking book. Cups of tea. No reading journal. No scribbling. No passages. No late night reading affair. Instead, I participated in the reading equivalent of watching paint dry. I shrugged off encouragement from my husband to "try something else." I was determined to find the beauty. I was determined to finish. Who doesn't like Dickens? Really. Who? Me. I found the story laborious, the language distracting and the characters unlovable. Especially Pip. Unbearable. Truly. Whine, whine, whine. I felt as though I was babysitting a naughty 6th grader. Am I allowed to complain about Dickens? Am I allowed to note that his characters exhibited the type of self-indulgence that only a very self-indulgent writer would know? Am I allowed to cry out for a steady plot with less ebbs and flows? And, for the love of god, am I allowed to ask for ONE good female character? Dickens clearly was wronged by all the women in his life. Hell hath no fury like a greedy, woman hating author.

Here's to next month. At least I can say I've experienced Dickens.

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Blogger bethany said...

I read Great Expectations in High School, and found it ok. I wasn't very sophisticated at the time, but I'm not as excited to read it again as I am, say, To Kill a Mockingbird.
I will say this for Dickens: you have to remember his audience (no tv) and that some of his other books are more complex, like Bleak House. It is bleak though, and unbearably long. We should all realize that Dickens is basically Victorian soap opera.
I was introduced in college to EDEN Southworth, Dickens' american, female, equally popular counterpart. The Hidden Hand is a great gender-troubling victorian silly novel.

Blogger Andi said...

LOL, great post, although I am sorry that you didn't enjoy it. I have to say, Dickens is hit and miss for me. I adored Great Expectations the first time around (admittedly, it's going a little slower this time), and I totally dig A Tale of Two Cities. Hard Times and A Christmas Carol, on the other hand. Awful. Like having my fingernails plucked out one by one.

Anonymous Lara said...

I am right there with you, chickadee. One of the absolutely positively worst reading experiences of my life was Bleak House. Ooh, and Bethany mentioned it! Bleak House? More like BLECK House.

Blogger Wendy said...

LOL, Kristen - you've perfectly captured my experience thus far. I feel I MUST have read this book in high school, but I have no recollection of it. I'm only 60 pages in...and like you, I settled down with this romantic vision of reading this story...and I'm having trouble keeping my eyes from drooping. More tea - preferably caffeinated - might help. I hope it gets better. Either that or I'm going to have to read faster so I can move on to the next book in my stack!

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