Friday, September 09, 2011

Old as the Dickens -- or -- Curmudgeon learns to read

(Still blogging surreptitiously -- and quickly -- from home because my office Internet is still down. Yes, I am screaming, OK? You don't realize how hooked you've become on this Internet-thingy until you are deprived of same.)

Older Daughter -- the nurse in Indianapolis -- was, you may recall, an English major in college. Yes, English... not the most commonly trod path to a nursing career.

Anyway, on the bookshelves in the room that she shared with Younger Daughter are some paperbacks that, I would like to think, are souvenirs of her college classes. On the other hand, now that I think about it, given that these are books by DWG's, it is entirely possible that these paperbacks were assigned at the girls' traditional Catholic high school.

DWG's, as you may know, have been in bad odor for some time among college English professors.

Is the acronym putting you off? DWG stands for Dead White Guy. You know, like Shakespeare. Or Milton. Not the sort of thing that modern English students are encouraged to read at all.

Among the titles on my daughters' bookshelves were Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe and Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. I'd never read either. I'd seen the movie version of Ivanhoe somewhere along the way. I was never an Elizabeth Taylor fan, for some reason, but I liked her in that role.

Well, I read Ivanhoe and enjoyed it. So I decided to try Great Expectations next.

Now I realize that, as a supposedly educated person, I'm supposed to love Dickens. But I couldn't stand him.

My attitude may stem from an incident in childhood. I think it was in 5th grade, while I was a participant in the Junior Great Books program, that I was assigned to read A Christmas Carol. Oh, did I hate it. I was bored to distraction. Every page weighed a hundred pounds. I got through it somehow -- but I could never read anything by Dickens again.

I found out later that Dickens got paid by the word and also that his books were typically serialized in magazines -- and he had to structure his prose to refresh the reader's recollection from issue to issue. That explained a lot. But I still couldn't slog through one of his books. And, over the years, from time to time, I've tried.

And, now, recently, I tried again with Great Expectations. My own expectations were as modest as could be -- but I found that, with patience, I actually could read, and even enjoy, the book. I'm not saying I'm going to go out and look for David Copperfield next, but somehow I feel as though I've accomplished something here.

1 comment:

Jean-Luc Picard said...

The Old Curiousity Shop was ultra-awful.