Tuesday, February 07, 2012
What the Dickens, this is heretical!!
Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty's ascension to the throne. Sixty years. Whether you are a royalist, or you think the royal family (or all royal families) is an anachronistic bunch of free-loaders, or you're from one of the territories that still sort-of belong to what's left of the British Empire (and which really should cut the cord and become republics) or the rest of the world, and don't give a monkey's either way, you have to admire her stamina. Sixty years in the same job is pretty good going. Strange that England's (and it is England in this case not the UK) three longest reigning monarchs (the UK's two longest reigning) are all female. Are women just better at handling the job or queen than men are at being king??
Today is the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens. The usual pontification is being done by the usual half-baked politicians. Lots of chattering about what a spur he was to social reform (erm - no - he reported the reform that was already happening - he didn't inspire it). And then the literary chattering classes shaking their heads about the way youngsters in school don't have the attention span to read his stuff these days. Got news for you chaps - kids never did like to read him, and it has nothing to do with attention spans. It's due to the fact that they're forced to read him in class. Being forced to read Jane Eyre as a kid means I still loathe that book.
Plus of course there's the fact that he's a pompous, sentimental, overblown windbag.
He was being paid by the word - and it shows. He was writing weekly instalments for magazines, and he needed to keep his readers coming back. And that shows too. He never "shows" if he can "tell". Preferably in huge info-dumps, the like of which would get any modern day editor buying red pencils (or blue, or which ever colour they prefer their strike-throughs to be) by the crate-load.
I've tried to like him. Truly I have. I re-read Christmas Carol (at Christmas), it's just about bearable if a little sickly. And I tried to read Tale of Two Cities last month, (brilliant opening paragraph, nonsensical and turgid rest of the chapter). And since I was born just yards away from where Mr. Pickwick was supposed to live I tried Pickwick Papers again last week. I managed a chapter and a half.
He's maudlin, sentimental in a sickly way. The only book of his era I can think of, off the top of my head, which is more sickly is Ellen Wood's East Lynne.
It's not the length of the books that means I (and the kids they're complaining about) can't stomach him. It's not the fact that styles have changed over time, or the bleakness of some parts of the stories. I like Sir Walter Scott. I like Wilkie Collins. And Mrs Gaskell. I love Jane Austen. I love Shakespeare. And Chaucer. And Langland. I even like Maksim Gorky, and you can't get much bleaker than that.
No, it's that he's awful. He's the Dan Brown of his era. Only with verbal diarrhoea.
I'm with Oscar Wilde on this. "One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing."
posted by zero2aries - 12:35 PM -- Email this post: Link to this entry
Show / Post Comments ::