Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Characters welcome?

Despite my belief that long books are better in the winter, I dove headfirst into David Copperfield three weeks ago. I don't know why. I bought it at Barnes and Noble a few months ago, and suddenly, there was nothing I wanted to read more. I finished it over the weekend.

I liked it, overall. But I know this is one book that frequently has the "boring" charge brought against it, and I can sort of understand why. Most of the stuff that happens develops rather slowly, and there is quite a bit in there that's not relevant to the main plot, which in itself is hard to define, since it's just a coming-of-age story and you could argue that everything that happens to you while you're growing up is relevant in a coming-of-age story.

And it's all there in David Copperfield. We get treated to accounts of what he ate in the inn on his way back to boarding school, what the interior was like of every door he darkened, and lengthy scenes with random characters. I think Charles Dickens liked making interesting characters so much that he just couldn't restrain himself.

And all of the random characters are pretty interesting. His beautician-dwarf made me think of the beautician-dwarf in the Tales of The City book where Michael goes to London. The cheerful funeral outfitters were interesting too. My co-worker was coincidentally re-reading it at the same time and pointed out that there was a great deal of foreshadowing in the book, and she's definitely right. Steerforth is described in too glowing terms not to have a dark side, and Uriah Heep is just shady as hell. But really, the cahracters make this one. And I love character-driven books.

Even though I liked Great Expectations better (it was much funnier), I enjoyed David Copperfield so much that I picked up Our Mutual Friend and Ye Old Curiousity Shoppe this weekend at B&N.

1 comment:

kittens not kids said...


it's a gorgeous mix of sappy sentimentalism/pastoral and weirdos on parade.

You're right: Dickens loves the weirdos. NO ONE does better weirdos than he does, and they are hilarious. The main big plots, the goopy ones with Romance and Dreamy Young Men - that was Dickens doing hackwork. The real quality comes in the secondary and tertiary characters. the weirdos.
Old Curiosity Shop: the shop, in and of itself, doesn't appear for long in the novel. Think instead of the novel *itself* as the shop, full of curiosities. Mrs Jarley's Wax-works [more weirdos ahoy!] is just display of curiosities. it's recursive like that.
Oh Dick Swiveller! My favorite character in all of Literature!

Because I'm a dork of all time, I love the little details, like what young David eats at the inn. But you don't mention Mr Dick! and Aunt Betsy! and the sister-that-never-was, Betsy Trotwood!
and Little Em'ly (a name which I occasionally use on a certain lil emily cat that we both know).

Gadzooks I love Dickens.