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?
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)
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.