Sunday Salon: December

After struggling – for I don’t know how long – with Dickens’ Little Dorrit I decided that I want to enjoy the books I read after all. A few weeks back, I questioned the purpose of reading, and I asked: is it wrong to read only for entertainment or enjoyment or escapism? But I realise now that those sorts of questions were the wrong ones to ask. Because even though I do read for enjoyment and escapism, I still want to savour books. So I’m putting Dorrit away for another day, when I’m prepared to digest it.

I seem to have a Dickens allergy or some sort of Dickensphobia. It’s not that his books are particularly difficult. In fact, he’s not even remotely intimidating. He just bores me. At first I was ashamed to admit it – he is, after all, considered one of the Masters. Now? I gaze at my stack of to-be-read books and wonder how I could have wasted so many hours half-heartedly dragging my eyes over the pages of Little Dorrit.

December is decidedly the best month on the calendar- it’s high summer; the days are long, and the nights sultry. There’s an unmistakeable air of festivity and high-spirits, and paradoxically, of relaxation. It’s the best month to simply read. And I’ve got some great books lined up for the next few weeks.

On my shelf is Ondaatje’s latest – Divisadero – as well as two of Gaskell’s novels. For the Really Old Classics project, I’ll be reading Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and from my Summer Reading list, I’ve decided to peruse the pages of Somerset’s Ladies in Waiting: From the Tudors to the Present Day, Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez. Oh, and maybe some Wodehouse. As for the ‘9 Books in 2009’ challenge, I haven’t yet decided which book I’ll be starting with, but I’m thinking Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

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8 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: December

  1. Ah, Dickens. I read Great Expectations freshman year, and hated every moment. I feel like I should read more of his books, but I can’t seem to convince myself to touch him with a ten foot pole.

    I’m starting Tess of the D’Urbervilles for school, so I’ll definitely be interested for your take.

  2. I’ve got to admit, I share your Dickens allergy. And yet, I persist in trying, because every once in a while I’ll stumble across a bit of Dickens that I absolutely love.

  3. I’m another one with a Dickens allergy, which is odd because I love most books of his era. But, like Memory, I give him a try now and then because I keep hoping for another Great Expectations or Bleak House, which are the only two of his books that I liked.

    Now Thomas Hardy is an altogether different matter. So far, he hasn’t failed to please me, and I’ve read most of his major novels. Tess is my absolute favorite, so it gets my vote. :-)

    1. Debbie – I agree that life is too short for boring books, but I thought Dickens might be worth reading since his novels are so highly regarded by the majority of people. Oh well; maybe another time.

      Christina – thank you. I’m glad I’m not the only one who detested Great Expectations. Whenever I mention that I hate Dickens, people treat me like I have leprosy so it’s been a closet thing – until I started this blog…

      Memory – Hm, I thought Dorrit would be that bit of Dickens for me, but alas. I did like the first few chapters though. Then he introduced the Circumlocution Office, and I was dozing off before I knew it. I think I adored A Christmas Carol as a child, but maybe only because my edition was illustrated by the wonderful Quentin Blake.

      Teresa – same here! I adore most Victorians; it’s just Dickens I can’t stand. I have yet to try Bleak House… Maybe I’ll like it. Then again, I can’t really say I’ve “tried” GE either. I think I attempted it once when I was in fifth grade, and got put off by how grim it was.

      Yay, I’m looking forward to Tess. It’s my first Hardy, and I’ve heard so many great things about it :)

  4. I agree, haven’t ever managed to get more than 2 pages into Dickens – but in the UK, the BBC have done some excellent tv adaptations which made them much more digestible – Bleak House a couple of years ago, and they’ve been doing Little Dorrit just recently, which I haven’t watched but my mum greatly enjoyed. They broke it all up into half-hour episodes like a soap, and it worked very well. Also some brilliant Hardy adaptations – the recent Tess of the D’Urbevilles was incredible, well worth tracking down (I don’t know that you’d have access to BBC iPlayer but you might be able to find it online somewhere) and The Mayor of Casterbridge a few years back was really good today – also one of Hardy’s more readable books, I’d recommend starting with it. I have yet to read Tess, but I read Return of the Native at school and loved it eventually, though it’s hard to get into.

    The film/tv/book debate is always going to be fierce, but I think books like this, if sensitively done, respond really well to the tv format and can make the stories much more digestible – focusing on the crucial parts of the plot and skimming over the boring bits like the Circumlocution Office!!

  5. Oh, Tess is your first Hardy novel then. I will warn you that Hardy is generally pretty bleak, and some people find Tess to be unacceptably so. Jenny, my coblogger actually gave up on Tess, which was her first attempt at Hardy, but she loved Far from the Madding Crowd.

    I agree with Elladk that Mayor of Casterbridge is a good Hardy to start with. (It was my first Hardy, followed by Tess and Return of the Native; I’ve also read Jude the Obscure, The Woodlanders, and Far from the Madding Crowd.)

  6. Hm, I’ll try and get a hold of Casterbridge, but I think I’ll still give Tess a go. After all, GE was a while ago; I might be able to take bleak in bigger doses now :)

    As for the BBC productions, no luck on the internet – I looked up the iplayer but it’s only available to people in the UK. I would’ve liked to see a reproduction of Tess before reading it. Maybe even Dorrit, although I don’t think I’ll be picking it up for a while…Oh well.

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