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Dickens and Barnaby Rudge (More like Barnaby TRUDGE, amirite?)

I haven't talked about Dickens on here for a while. I've decided in the last few months that my relationship with him can best be summed up with Pink's "True Love":


Yes, exactly.

Most people I've talked to about Dickens feel this way. "Ugh he SUCKED sometimes as a person, but the writiiiiiiiiing." Even the parts where he completely Overwrites are still forgivable because it's Dickens:


In the venerable suburb--it was a suburb once--of Clerkenwell, towards that part of its confines which is nearest to the Charter House, and in one of those cool, shady Streets, of which a few, widely scattered and dispersed, yet remain in such old parts of the metropolis,--each tenement quietly vegetating like an ancient citizen who long ago retired from business, and dozing on in its infirmity until in course of time it tumbles down, and is replaced by some extravagant young heir, flaunting in stucco and ornamental work, and all the vanities of modern days,--in this quarter, and in a street of this description, the business of the present chapter lies.

That is from Barnaby Rudge, and that is one sentence.  But who else would talk about tenements vegetating? One of the best things about good writers is they'll link words you would never have thought to link, but when they do it makes a new kind of sense to you. Dickens is amazing at this. Not only does he skip around with the English language, but he creates characters you care about deeply, even in something as mind-numbing as the aforementioned Rudge, which I've been stuck on for at least three years. For some reason, Dickens thought a book about the anti-popery riots in 18th century England would be the balls to write about.




Rudge is the first of his novels that doesn't (as of a third of the way into it) involve some semi-lovable characters tramping around, meeting quirky figures along the way. Dickens Roadtrips help solidify his reputation of offering a panoramic view of London and its environs, but so far he just seems to be focusing on some core characters who do almost NO roadtripping, which is how his later novels function. But he hasn't quite got the hang of it yet, so it's a not-great transition book instead of being either Fun Road Trip or Srs Bizniz book (Great Expectations is a Srs Bizniz book).

I've thought about abandoning Rudge a few times. "We only get one life, Self," I've said. "You're going to spend precious moments of it forcing yourself to read a novel about the effects of the Papists Act of 1778?" But you know what, yes. Yes, I am. Because after getting through The Old Curiosity Shop, I'm pretty sure every Dickens novel is worth reading. Because stuck in with pale characters like Emma Haredale are lines about "drowsy little panes of glass" and "John Willet, a burly, large-headed man with a fat face."


Damnit, Dickens

To me, sir, you are perfect.

But also still an asshole.

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