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Tag Archives: Charles Dickens

Great Expectations . . . Or Not

Passing thoughts about books and authors:wise_owl_on_books

In keeping with my idea of reading a “bucket-book” list, I recently started Dickens’ “Great Expectations.” I remembered having read it back in high school days and being absorbed in its world. Figuring this would be an easy one to check off the list, I began. Oooops! Something has changed in the forty-some-odd years since I last read it. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Pip or Miss Havisham. Or Mr. Dickens.

Has anybody out there ever come back to a book you thought you knew and enjoyed and found it somehow . . . lacking? I sure did with this book. The 16 chapters I managed to get through before I finally put it aside required an effort of sheer will. I struggled with the language, the pace, the characters and the plot. And this is considered to be his last great novel. What am I going to do when I come to, say, Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey? Or even Dante’s Divine Comedy?

I left my bookmark where I stopped, at the start of chapter 17. When I come back to it, I’ll pick up there. Maybe a cup of PG Tips would help?

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A few weeks back I re-read Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.” Written in 1883, it presents challenges to the modern reader similar to the ones I faced with “Great Expectations.” Issues of style and language were again prominent. Yet I managed to finish it and even enjoy it. Long John Silver is a character for the ages.

And I’m beginning to realize that Stevenson was a writer for the ages as well. He also wrote “Kidnapped” and “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde, ” along with a variety of short fiction and even poetry (the delightful “A Child’s Garden of Verses.”) In poor health most of his life, he died at a young 44 years old, while working on a novel, “Weir of Hermiston.” An amazingly talented writer gone too soon.

In spite of the iron composure of his features, his eye was wild, scared, and uncertain; and when he dwelt, in private admonitions, on the future of the impenitent, it seemed as if his eye pierced through the storms of time to the terrors of eternity.

                    – from the short story “Thrawn Janet” (Thrawn; a Scottish expression meaning lacking in pleasing or attractive qualities)

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One of the area’s thrift stores had a half price sale yesterday, so of course my wife and I were there. I needn’t tell you where I spent my time looking. But while exploring the religion section, I came across two novels that looked interesting: “King Solomon’s Mines” by H. Rider Haggard, and “The Resurrectionist” by Jack O’Connell. I purchased them both.

What I want to know is why these novels were in the religion book section. Sure, the titles would suggest a connection, but a cursory look at either book would have informed the stocking person that these belonged in the fiction area. But then again, I often wonder why Joel Osteen’s books are in the religion section too.

Some things are just a mystery.

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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On the Road

This week I got my hands on a fascinating little volume at the local library’s ongoing book sale. “American Journeys, An Anthology of Travel In the United States,” (Travel Vision in association with the Exxon Travel Club, 1975) is a collection of excerpts from pioneer diaries, explorer’s journals and articles about travel in America from the late 1600s up to the lunar landing.

It includes pieces from such writers as Benjamin Franklin (describing his trip to, and first night in, Philadelphia), Charles Dickens (writing about a steamboat trip with his wife in 1842. He did not like it), Mark Twain (a description of a stagecoach trip, excerpted from his book “Roughing It”) and John Muir (recounting one of his long walks among California’s sequoia trees).

This book reflects an important characteristic of the American people; the urge to travel and explore. For over 200 years the call of the open road has stirred something in our souls. Even if it’s only a trip into town:

When labor is light and the morning is fair,

I find it a pleasure beyond all compare

To hitch up my nag and go hurrying down

And take Katie May for a ride into town;

For bumpety-bump goes the wagon,

But tra-la-la-la our lay.

There’s joy in a song as we rattle along

In the light of the glorious day.

From “Riding to Town” by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1896.)

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Book Hunting, Grazing, History, Poetry

 

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