Have you ever heard it said that with books, you can travel anywhere, be anyone and experience anything? It's true.
Reading is one of the most important things in my life. I think it might have something to do with my mother being a lover of books. :-) Some of my earliest memories are of her reading while my sister Hannah and I played on the floor with our dolls and Legos. And some of my best memories from my childhood are of her reading out loud to us. We would sit very quietly as she read “Little House on the Prairie”, “Daniel Boone”, Susanna of the Yukon”, “No Children; No Pets”, “The Lonely Sentinel”, etc, etc.
I can still remember reading my first book. I think I was about seven years old. It was Sugar Creek Gang mystery (which may explain my love for mysteries to this day) and it took me all of three days (I think) to finish it. Mom bragged on me so much for that accomplishment that even though some of the words were still a struggle, I kept right on... reading my way through many other children's books.
That being said, my parents never encouraged me to read many classics. Oh yes, we read “Little Women”, “Heidi”, “Hans Brinker & The Silver Skates”, etc. But while other homeschoolers were talking about Dickens and Hawthorne, we were talking of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott. I don't regret that. In fact, I really hope those authors are what my children cut their literary teeth on!
But now, in my old age, I really would like to be well read. And if that includes Dickens and Hawthorne and Austen, so be it. ;-)
So. I am reading “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens. I am on the chapter entitled, “A Disappointment”. Mr. Manette and his daughter have been reunited and brought back to London by Mr. Lorry... and are now seated in a court room, awaiting with horror for the trial of the Treason case to be done and over with. And we have been introduced to Jerry, Tellson Bank's odd-job-man who wakes up in the morning and throws boots at his meek and quiet wife who is, in his own words, “Prayin' agin' me!”
My opinion in one word? Dry. I cannot seem to connect with the author at all. He is way above my head. I'm not sure if it's just a lack of knowledge on my part that makes it so. Or, if it's the style he writes in. But I am hardly into the book,and since I'm not taking myself seriously, please follow suit. :-)
However dry as it may be, I have found several interesting quotes that I wanted to share with my blog readers. Please feel free to share your opinions and thoughts... I appreciate any input you may have.
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I love the beginning paragraph of chapter 3. It lends much food to my thoughts... after I read it yesterday, I can't stop thinking of it. “...every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. ....every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!... In any of the burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there a sleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in their innermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?” I wish I could understand what he is saying more thoroughly. :-) I catch glimpses of it... I see the raw truth of it... and yet, the full meaning is still beyond my comprehension.
I find that many of the “classic” authors are very dramatic. Perhaps overly so. Louisa May Alcott was probably the best (especially thinking of “Little Women”; “Eight Cousins”) of the 19th century authors because she used everyday language... even some slang. Am I just too used to using slang terms or did they actually talk this way two hundred thirty-four years ago?
“But this time, she trembled under such strong emotion, and her face expressed such deep anxiety, and, above all, such dread and terror, that Mr. Lorry felt it incumbent on him to speak a word or two or reassurance.
'Courage, dear Miss! Courage! Business! The worst will be over in a moment; it is but passing the room door, and the worst is over. Then, all the good you bring to him, all the happiness you bring to him, begin....' ” (Chapter 4: The Preparation)
When Miss Manette is first told that her father still lives and has been released from prison, she... “said in a low distinct, awe-stricken voice, as if she were saying it in a dream, “I am going to see his Ghost! It will be his Ghost – not him!'”
And this part made me laugh because the description fits my sister Hannah so well. Not the red hair, but the strength... the protectiveness, the 'wild-looking', hasty, forceful description! I love this. :-)
Miss Manette faints... and Mr. Lorry says, “'But what is the matter! She doesn't notice a word! Miss Manette!' Perfectly still and silent, and not even fallen back in her chair, she sat under his hand, utterly insensible, with her eyes open and fixed upon him, and with that last expression looking as if it were carved or branded into her forehead....” Mr. Lorry calls for help and ... 'A wild-looking woman, whom, even in his agitation, Mr. Lorry observed to be all of a red color, and to have red hair,... came running into the room... and soon settled the question of his detachment from the poor young lady, by laying a brawny hand upon his chest, and sending him flying back against the nearest wall.
(“ 'I really think this must be a man!' was Mr. L's breathless reflection, simultaneously with his coming against the wall.)
“'Why look at you all!' bawled this figure...” (Chapter four; The Preparation)
“The faintness of the voice was pitiable and dreadful. It was not the faintness of physical weakness, though confinement and hard fare no doubt had their part in it. Its deplorable peculiarity was, that it was the faintness of solitude and disuse. It was like the last feeble echo of a sound made long and long ago. So entirely had it lost the life and resonance of the human voice, that it affected the senses like a once beautiful color faded away into a poor weak stain....”
That is a beautiful and painful description... Dickens doesn't mince words. He leaves no room for doubt as to exactly what he means. I appreciate that. Other authors I have read are very hard to follow because you have no idea where they are going.
“Only one soul was to be seen, and that was Madame Defarge – who leaned against the doorpost, knitting, and saw nothing.”
I love how he repeats this observation three times about Madame Defarge. Does anyone else use triplets while writing? If so, why? I do it a lot, especially when I am not thinking about what I'm writing.
“Tellson's Bank by Temple-bar was an old-fashioned place... It was very small, very dark, very ugly, very incommodious. It was an old-fashioned place, moreover, in the moral attribute that the partners in the House were proud of its smallness, proud of its darkness, proud of its ugliness, proud of its incommodiousness. They were even boastful of its eminence in those particulars, and were fired by an express conviction that, if it were less objectionable, it would be less respectable. This was no passive belief but an active one which they flashed at more convenient places of business.” (chapter 1: Five Years Later)
This reminds me of some people I know... The pharisees in Jesus' time and some of the more “conservative” Christians of this day. Their thought is that if they don't have a good number of enemies, they must doing something wrong. If people do not feel belittled, shunned or convicted around them, they aren't being the salt (in the eyes :-P) that Jesus expects them to be. My opinion is that such a belief begins and ends with pride.
“Death is Nature's remedy for all things, and why not Legislation's? Accordingly the forger was put to Death; the utterer of a bad note was put to Death; the unlawful opener of a letter was put to Death... the holder of a horse at Tellson's door, who made off with it, was put to Death...; the sounders of three-fourths of the notes in the whole gamut of Crime, were put to death. Not that it did the least good in the way of prevention – it might almost have been worth remarking that the fact was exactly the reverse – but it cleared off (as to this world) the trouble of each particular case, and left nothing else connected with it to be looked after.”
Interesting... especially with the mindset I have been raised with. Food for thought.
“Mr. Cruncher's eyes seemed to get a little closer to one another, and to interchange the inquiry, “What do you think of this?”
I love that. Pure foolishness mixed in with heavy, heavy material. It makes a person not want to miss a single word in case one was to miss some of Dickens lovely humor. :-)
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And that is the end of my observations. So far. :-) Again, please feel free to post any or all of your opinions regarding books, authors, styles, etc. I welcome them. :-) Classical or otherwise, what are some of your favorite authors and books? Why do you enjoy them? Are there some you can recommend to me? I try to have a fairly open mind so don't mince for my sake. :-)
Has anyone ever read Louisa May Alcott's “A Long Fatal Love Chase”? I recently read it and I can't forget it. I found it dark and evil... and in the end, the evil overcame the good. It was so strange. I don't think I can recommend it to anyone except for someone who is looking for good style, because Louisa May Alcott invariably wrote with good style.