Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bleak House Readalong

I love a good readalong. I'm traveling for part of Feb so I make no promises about the thoroughness or timeliness of my posts, but I'll make a good start, at least.

I read Bleak House in my teens, but I have a mind like a salad spinner so I may as well be coming to this readalong blind. Which means I'm going to be saying a lot of things like, Was she a fallen woman? She was a fallen woman, wasn't she.

Omg prologue, seriously. '...which guilty public, it appeared, had been until lately bend in the most determined manner on by no means enlarging the number of Chancery judges appointed - I believe by Richard the Second, but any other king will do as well.'

'Edwin and Morcar, the earls of Mercia and Northumbria, declared for him: and even Stigand, the patriotic archbishop of Canterbury, found it advisable...' I mean, right?

Ok but Dickens makes up for it in the second line of Ch. 1 where London is so soggy 'it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill.' Let all novels begin henceforth with hypotheticalsauruses.

But here we go again: 'Chizzle, Mizzle, and otherwise have lapsed into a habit of vaguely promising themselves that they will look into that outstanding little matter and see what can be done for Drizzle' OH MY GOD CHARLES. I'm sure there are people who, like those who really enjoy all the songs in The Lord of the Rings, really get off on these extended satirical passages. I am not either of those people.

'The deer, looking soaked, leave quagmires where they pass. The shot of a rifle loses its sharpness in the moist air' and FINE, C-Dick. You can set a scene. There's just so. much. scene in this first bit.

Ah! Splendid. Esther and her 'godmother. At least, I only knew her as such.' OOOOOOOOH FORESHADOWING THERE SHALL BE MYSTERIES.

I love mysteries.

Oh man, though. Esther's birthday? 'It would have been far better, little Esther, that you had had no birthday, that you had never been born.' Are any of you NOT crying now? Yeah, me neither.

'Your mother, Esther, is your disgrace, and you were hers.' IS SHE A FALLEN WOMAN, THOUGH?

Bitches be sluts, amirite?

But the godmother dies (GOOD RIDDANCE) and Mr Kenge shows up to give lawyerly and bachelory and never-talked-to-a-woman-before-ish advice. 'Don't distress yourself; it's of no use.' Oh and also, your godmother was your aunt. 

Esther is swept off to Greenleaf to learn and teach and never see 'in any face there, thank heaven, on [her] birthday, that it would have been better if [she] had never been born.' *weeps*

Esther meets Ada and Richard and there's lots of very Victorian pleasantness and teasing and putting of arms around waists and a very weird visit to a strange lady's lodging (seriously, none of them bat an eye at some random lady being like, AH, the wards of a famous court case! Won't you come look at my apartment? Never mind my landlord and his 'three sacks of ladies hair'...


There's another random lodger in this random lady's random apartment whom the children say 'has sold himself to the devil. I don't know what he can have done with the money.' HAHAHAHA, oh Dickens. I roll my eyes at you but sometimes you get me right in the lol-bone.

Esther and Ada and Richard meet Stock Dickens Character #4: The Benevolent Benefactor. Mr Jarndyce is so jolly and dear. But SKIMPOLE OMG. Am I supposed to be charmed? Because I am exasperated as hell. 'I almost feel as if YOU out to be grateful to ME for giving you the opportunity of enjoying the luxury of generosity.' FFS.

Yar yar yar, Ada is a child of the universe. '"The universe," [Mr Jarndyce] observed, 'makes rather an indifferent parent, I am afraid.' SUCH TRUTHINESS. Such sagacity. Well played, Charles.

Oh urgh. I can't wait till the Lady Deadlock plotline becomes something other than pages and pages of 'So with the dogs in the kennel-buildings across the park, who have their restless fits and whose doleful voices when the wind have been very obstinate' I JUST CANNOT WITH THIS ANYMORE.

OH GOOD A GHOST STORY. Thank you, Charles. 'I will die here where I have walked.' You tell him, Lady Morbury. 

Oh Mr Jarndyce. I'm so feelingly for you, but to say 'the brains seemed to me to have been blown out of the house too' seems a bit graphic for 1852. 'I think you had better call me guardian, my dear.' How cozy! (I'm joking. That still sound formal as hell. I will have to take Esther's reaction as evidence that it's a 'thoughtful tenderness.')

Oooh, he knows things about her past! Oh balls. 'I have nothing to ask you, nothing in the world...I felt...quite content to know no more.' DAMMIT, ESTHER. We wanted to know more.

Esther's first proposal of marriage slays me. She's so cool and amusedly disinterested. Mr Guppy, though. 'I've everything that I can require to make me comfortable - at least I - not comfortable - I'm never that.' This guy. 'Not half a glass?...Quarter? No?'

Oh hey, the Snagsbys. 'Mr and Mrs Snagsby are not only one bone and one flesh, but, to the neighbours' thinking, one voice too. That voice, appearing to proceed from Mrs Snagsby alone...' Lot of that going around in this book.

The mysterious soul-selling lodger turns up dead and there's a court hearing. We meet Jo, the sweepster, who isn't a person enough to testify in court but who shows up again a few pages later, so is Probably Important. 

En fin (for now).


Sarah said...

I definitely was confused by that whole marriage proposal. I had already forgot who the hell he was, and Esther was so dismissive and cool to him, and then she went and cried. What in the hell.

That brains blown out of the house line was pretty great. Well done, Dickens, for being morbid and vivid and such.

Reading Rambo said...

*cries to you about Jo because of Reasons*

While I want to say BH is a perfect book...the scene-setting. Good. Lord. I know it's raining. And two paragraphs would be fine, sir. But not a chapter.

Also why is no one delighted with Mr Jarndyce for muttering things about Miss Rachel in the coach. For I was totally delighted by that. ALSO: "The face of each child, as the amount of his contribution was mentioned, darkened in a peculiarly vindictive manner"

Also the thing about how women in particular bother one all the time with their excess energy and it's like I WONDER WHY MAYBE BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE JOBS OR PROPERTY RIGHTS AND HAVE NOTHING ELSE THEY CAN DO

Red said...

Are we supposed to like Skimpole? Because no. No. Although at least Jarndyce felt bad for Esther and Richard and got them their money back. And then Richard was all excited about getting new money that he could spend on anything cos he figured it was gone but now he has it so in his mind he's up money and Richard, you're so cute. Maybe let Ada handle the finances...

Laura said...

" I'm sure there are people who, like those who really enjoy all the songs in The Lord of the Rings, really get off on these extended satirical passages. I am not either of those people." I will never stop laughing at this. I HATE THE SONGS SO MUCH.

I'm really not down with the Deadlock stuff, or any of the third person narratory bits yet, because YAWN. Give me Esther being gay, or give me nothing. (Or, you know, some other stuff too, but not boring stuff.)

Jane Ward said...

Thank you for giving voice to all the things I couldn't say when I was reading this on my morning commute on the New York subway because people would think I was crazy.

Megs said...

"I read Bleak House in my teens, but I have a mind like a salad spinner so I may as well be coming to this readalong blind." Bless you and your salad-spinner brain.

I could probably skip reading the actual book and get everything I need right here in your recaps. I'll keep that option in my back pocket just in case.

Justin Elvins said...

It was such a fabulous book I just got lost in it. It was so exquisitely written and beautiful. One of my favorites. Underrated Books

Kayleigh vW said...

Hypotheticalsauruses are the best 'sauruses.

WHAT IS WITH KROOK AND COLLECTING HAIR, THO?! I am uncomfortable. Ada should've been more freaked out when he started pawing her head.