Friday, October 29, 2010

Now that my birthday-dinner responsibilities are over, I can return to my own idle ways--which is to say that, in between baking yet another batch of bread and washing yet another load of clothes and unloading boxes off the food-coop truck and transplanting rosemary and digging up my dahlia bulbs, I could read a little Moby-Dick or copy out a few lines of the Prelude or even keep writing something of my own. I'm expecting a new editing project next week, so I'll be back to "my real work," though I'm hoping that I'll continue to chip away at my real work. I'm feeling sort of optimistic at the moment, which is better than gloomy and demon-ridden, though, to tell the truth, gloomy and demon-ridden can be very productive.

So how are the rest of you doing with MD? Yesterday I finished that famous chapter "The Whiteness of Whale," about which so much has been written. It's certainly a very unnerving chapter. Has anyone else gotten there yet? What are your reactions?

And what about Great Expectations? I know I've told you that I've finished it, but I'm still waiting impatiently to hear what you have say.


Allison said...

I just read Chapter 29, aka "Enter Ahab; to him, Stubb" and finally felt that I might start to enjoy this book, which I must say has felt like a tedious chore to get through to this point. I want more of Ahab and his grumpy and "queer" yet charismatic personality.

I'm still loving "Great Expectations" the second time around. I love how Dickens keeps a light tone so often even when describing the most horrible and destructive characters. He introduces the spoiled, class-obsessed, and self-centered Mrs. Pocket and shows us her neglectful and destructive parenting, but surrounds her with Mr. Pocket pulling himself up by his hair, any number of self-entitled servants, the fawning Mrs. Coiler, and children always tumbling over her so that we end up laughing.

Dawn Potter said...

I love the neglected Pocket baby.

Allison said...

"Babies are to be nutcrackered dead for people's poor grandpapa's positions!"

Thomas said...

I'm worried that I'll incur the wrath of the Dickens fans, but the light tone Allison points to in her post is one of the elements of the novel that grates on me -- not with the Pockets so much (as I do love the Pocket baby and Mrs. Pocket's haughty neglect -- I especially like her support of the drunken theif of a cook) but in the interminable scenes with Wopsle and Pumblechook: Wopsle's theatrical career in particular threatened to put me to sleep.

Perhaps if Dickens were consistently keeping to this light tone I would enjoy it more completely, but somehow it jars against the scenes of genuine menace or despair: It's hard for me to reconcile the scenes with Orlick or Estella with Pumblechook's airs. It's as though Dickens couldn't decide what kind of a novel he was writing.

The novel felt more successful in its balance of tone when detailing the worlds of Jaggers and Wemmick or the Gargery household before Mrs. Joe's assault.

That said, I must say that I've enjoyed Great Expectations this time around. Dickens is a master of parallel structure in his sentences! But that ending -- Estella changed? Please, you must be kidding me.