Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bleakly Bleak In The Bleak Mid Winter: Bleak House, by Dickens

Oh you good soldier you, for boldly marching forth to this post despite that title.  Yes, Bleak House was my first read on my 2014 TBR Challenge list.  Yes, I found it very wearying.  Yes, I did have to have the inspiration of the challenge to get it done.  And, yes, I am glad I read it.

Not so glad that I listened to it.  I normally advocate that classics are better heard.  But perhaps Dickens is more a Virgil than a Homer, because I have found that I officially hate listening to Dickens and will never do so again. (They say that Virgil helps us see greatness in The Aeneid, but Homer lets us hear greatness in The Iliad.  Dickens is not a Homer).

It is just about impossible to listen to Dickens because of all the little curious characters that he adds to most of his books, to finally tie them back in at some point.  I get why this is fun when the books are serialized, but trust me, in Bleak House on the audio you can just about tell when you are at the beginning of the next serialized publication.  It takes until around Chapter 16 (one fourth of the way through a long book) to get some momentum, that blessed AHA moment of I get this character now, and by that time I was hopelessly lost and having to look at summaries on spark notes which were pages in themselves. Not so enjoyable.


In order to even write the review I want to write, I had to see the print version, but I'm truly not so interested in having it on my shelf, so I did a quick search in an ereader, and found a lovely copy complete with original edition illustrations.








Now that would have been so much more fun for my journey.









I tell you this so that you know that I now officially decree:  DO NOT LISTEN to Dickens.  Read his books.  You can still go to the famous play every Christmas or so, but don't listen to him.



I wanted to read Bleak House for  really only one reason and that is:  Mistress Law.  Being a lawyer, I try to find a few books of inspiration a year, such as the wonderful My Beloved World by Sonia Sontomayor.  I knew that Bleak House would not be an inspiration in an uplifting way, but more of a call to arms way:  "Oh ye lawyers, open thine eyes and discern the sufferings of thy clients who have entered thy strange world."    



 So, I shall take a bit more time and think through all of the things I learned as a lawyer and post elsewhere, with a link.  But for the moment, let me just say, if you want to read something slightly depressingly foggy and bleak, with some sides of very interesting people and their stories, with some
death and even a surprising murder with a cool detective story built in, and some really funny moments,but also mingled with the oppression and misunderstanding of the law, and debt, and misery, and crooks, and lawyers, and those people who cause lawyers to exist in the first place, then please, be my guest and read Bleak House, preferably with the original illustrations, so much more fun.  And when you are finished, go ahead and shout it out:


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