Skip to main content

Bleak House is the best and I guess this post has Oliver Twist spoilers

I've talked a lot this year about how Dickens was kind of an asshole but I still love him, only not so much him the person as the words, THE WORDS that flow from his bless├Ęd pen.

Bleak House is his best book. No, I haven't read David Copperfield. Or Tale of Two Cities. Or Little Dorrit. Or...others. But it's still his best book. The way I came to Dickens is in high school I made myself read Oliver Twist, because I loved the character Nancy in the musical Oliver ridiculous amounts (she sings a song called 'Oom-Pah-Pah,' people) and thought the book would flesh her out more. Ehhhhhh! Wrong! Oliver Twist isn't just Dickens: it's EARLY Dickens, which means black and white portrayals of people and EXTRA flat female characters.

Poehler's not putting up with
your bullshit, Dickens

I wrote a paper on Nancy using an idea I stole from a Nabokov novel, saying that because characters in the Oliver Twist world exist on the good or bad side, and she is an in-between, she has to die. IT WAS A GOOD STOLEN CONCEPT, OKAY? But anyway. Oliver Twist the book kind of sucks, especially compared to the amazing musical, which you should all watch. And so I haaaated Dickens. Then I went to college and got very excited about the prospect of taking a class called Victorian Literature and Culture. But two of the required books were Dickens. One was Oliver, so...that was great, and the OTHER -- the other was a giant-ass book called Bleak House, which sounded just SO up. Yeah, no, I was not looking forward.

Then we started it was the best. Bleak House takes Victorian social problems, tens of characters, wit, brilliance, pathos, psychological insight and MIXES 'EM ALL UP TOGETHER, and the result is characters like Mr Turveydrop and Jo and Mrs Jellyby and George Rouncewell and Lady Dedlock and Mr Guppy and Inspector Bucket and Harold Skimpole, and these are people who inspire rousing feelings. Do you know how much I want to give Jo a place to sleep? And shake Mrs Jellyby until she forgets about the natives of Borrioboola-Gha and starts keeping her children from getting their heads stuck in fences? And hug Esther -- WHO DOESN'T WANT TO HUG ESTHER?

let me give you raccoon hugs, book character

My younger self loved it maybe even more. In the course of writing this, I found a college response paper to Hard Times which begins, "Reading Dickens's Hard Times after the masterful creation that is Bleak House is a bit like hearing the Berlin Philharmonic followed by Uncle Chuckles's Moosejaw Sinfonia." (I really didn't like Hard Times)

Bleak House isn't historical like Tale of Two Cities, it isn't didactic like Hard Times, it isn't obsessive and limited like Great Expectations, it isn't meandering and pointless like Pickwick Papers (note: I still love Pickwick Papers), it doesn't have senseless moments like Our Mutual Friend. It catches Dickens in a rare moment of just being very, very, very good. You almost always have to excuse something in his books, but Bleak House can be read without that sort of wariness. It is excellent, in the true, excelling-all-others sense. Go read it.


Popular posts from this blog

Harry Potter 2013 Readalong Signup Post of Amazingness and Jollity

Okay, people. Here it is. Where you sign up to read the entire Harry Potter series (or to reminisce fondly), starting January 2013, assuming we all survive the Mayan apocalypse. I don't think I'm even going to get to Tina and Bette's reunion on The L Word until after Christmas, so here's hopin'. You guys know how this works. Sign up if you want to. If you're new to the blog, know that we are mostly not going to take this seriously. And when we do take it seriously, it's going to be all Monty Python quotes when we disagree on something like the other person's opinion on Draco Malfoy. So be prepared for your parents being likened to hamsters. If you want to write lengthy, heartfelt essays, that is SWELL. But this is maybe not the readalong for you. It's gonna be more posts with this sort of thing: We're starting Sorceror's/Philosopher's Stone January 4th. Posts will be on Fridays. The first post will be some sort of hilar

Minithon: The Mini Readathon, January 11th, 2020

The minithon is upon us once more! Minithons are for the lazy. Minithons are for the uncommitted. Minithons are for us. The minithon lasts 6 hours (10 AM to 4 PM CST), therefore making it a mini readathon, as opposed to the lovely Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon and 24in48, both of which you should participate in, but both of which are a longer commitment than this, the Busy Watching Netflix person's readathon. By 'read for six hours' what's really meant in the minithon is "read a little bit and eat a lot of snacks and post pictures of your books and your snacks, but mostly your snacks." We like to keep it a mini theme here, which mainly means justifying your books and your snacks to fit that theme. Does your book have children in it? Mini people! Does it have a dog! Mini wolf! Does it have pencils? Mini versions of graphite mines! or however you get graphite, I don't really know. I just picture toiling miners. The point is, justify it or don't

How to Build a Girl Introductory Post, which is full of wonderful things you probably want to read

Acclaimed (in England mostly) lady Caitlin Moran has a novel coming out. A NOVEL. Where before she has primarily stuck to essays. Curious as we obviously were about this, I and a group of bloggers are having a READALONG of said novel, probably rife with spoilers (maybe they don't really matter for this book, though, so you should totally still read my posts). This is all hosted/cared for/lovingly nursed to health by Emily at As the Crowe Flies (and Reads) because she has a lovely fancy job at an actual bookshop ( Odyssey Books , where you can in fact pre-order this book and then feel delightful about yourself for helping an independent store). Emily and I have negotiated the wonders of Sri Lankan cuisine and wandered the Javits Center together. Would that I could drink with her more often than I have. I feel like we could get to this point, Emily INTRODUCTION-wise (I might've tipped back a little something this evening, thus the constant asides), I am Alice. I enjoy