Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Our Mutual Friend

'As to the amount of strain upon the intellect now. Was you thinking at all of poetry?' Mr Wegg inquired, musing.

'Would it come dearer?' Mr Boffin asked.

'It would come dearer,' Mr Wegg returned. 'For when a person comes to grind off poetry night after night, it is but right he should expect to be paid for its weakening effect on his mind.'

Probably my favorite Dickens novel, though it's hard to say: I can't always tell the them apart, and I sometimes find myself wondering which character comes from which novel: Captain Cuttle, now, was that The Old Curiosity Shop? "When found, make a note of," as he himself would say. When a Dickens impulse comes over me, I don't have a hankering to read, say, David Copperfield again; rather, I find myself missing the company of Mr Micawber, and I rummage among my fat, yellowing, disintegrating college paperbacks till I find the one he inhabits.

(When I first left IBM, and took to Massage School, in the cheerful expectation that something would turn up, Martha would occasionally clutch her breast and declare, "I will never desert Mr Micawber!)

Anyway, I'm reading Our Mutual Friend, for the umpteenth time. Improbably, it's gotten better since the last time I read it.

I love the spaciousness of Victorian novels, and of Dickens above all. They have all the time in the world. Their characters aren't always slaving away in the service of a tyrannical plot; there's time for them to wander a little, and for the author to wander with them, or away from them. There's all kinds of openings for the light to leak through.

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