I’m about two-thirds of the way through Dickens’ epic Bleak House. This is the Kindle’s fault — it makes it easy to read the enormous classics because I don’t have to lug around an 800-page book. This is why I finally read Moby Dick, which was awesome, by the way. And funny. Seriously, Ishmael and Queequeg meet cute, there’s a ton of humor, vivid scenes, some scary ghostly bits, it’s incredibly modern and totally American. See what I missed all these years? I think now I finally got my English major badge.
So, Bleak House. In no particular order, here are my thoughts:
Lady Dedlock — I knew it! I KNEW IT! I totally guessed it even before she and Esther meet.
J0 the sweeper boy — As I said the other day, I have this terrible need to comfort fictional people. I want to take Jo out of the book, give him food, a bath, clean clothes, and send him to school, and read to him at night, and give him hugs and kisses and let him know he’s loved. [Edit: Oh Charles Dickens, how could you? I cried and cried.]
Krook — Holy cow! Spontaneous combustion? All this and Dickens includes SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION?! And it’s … greasy?
Tulkinghorn — Douchenozzle.
Smallweed — See above.
Guppy — aptly named, also after seeing what happened to Esther? Dickhead.
Dickens — the author loves the ladies. Check out this line: “A maid of honour of the court of Charles the Second, with large round eyes (and other charms to correspond), seems to bathe in glowing water…” I know what you are talking about, Charles! I get it!
Dickens also does not like the English aristocracy. Not one bit.
Esther–I think she’s being just a bit coy, but you know what, I like her as much as the author does.
Mrs. Jellyby — Dickens eschews subtlety.
Mr. Jellyby — sliding his head against the wall, and it’s very sad and endearing.
Chancery — I’m not even a suitor and I want to kill all of them.
Conversation Kenge — I wish I could make up these kinds of names.
That’s all for now. I’m sure I will have more later. It’s not an easy book. In fact, Moby Dick is probably more straightforward. There is a cast of hundreds, okay dozens, and it’s hard to tell how they all fit in, although it’s coming together. If you’ve ever seen the movies Crash or Syriana, you can see immediately how they got their structure from Bleak House. The characters lead different lives but are all interconnected. It’s modern storytelling.
Dickens also has built up some nice class rage in this one. He does not like the aristocracy; nor does he like the lawyers who keep Chancery going. I wonder if this book set about reforming a broken system — I don’t know enough about the history or backstory to know for sure, but I could see a lot of embarrassed people when this book came out.