what i'm reading: little dorrit finally back on the shelf

None of us clearly know to whom or to what we are indebted in this wise, until some marked stop in the whirling wheel of life brings the right perception with it. It comes with sickness, it comes with sorrow, it comes with the loss of the dearly loved, it is one of the most frequent uses of adversity.

Charles Dickens, from Little Dorrit

I've finally finished reading this book. It took forever, as I struggle with making time to read and with my poor concentration. I loved it, because I love reading Dickens - his flood of language, his unerring conscience, the parade of crazy caricatures, the heartbreaking observations, the improbable coincidences, the total overkill.

The novel itself has some serious problems. Threads are left too long unattended, clues overly buried, loose ends tied up too suddenly, too much unwritten action suddenly revealed to force the conclusion. But if you like the lush, dense language, the melodrama, the great heap of characters more broad than deep - if you enter into the spirit of the thing - these faults don't matter. It's still wonderful.

Little Dorrit is a novel about poverty, class and the sins of capitalism. About the suffering caused by secrets and misdirected self-righteousness. About fortune's wheel - reversals of fortune, and who perishes and who withstands them. About, as always in Dickens, bad parents and the ruin they leave in their wake. Little Dorrit is about imprisonment - physical, emotional, spiritual - and true inner freedom, and what that might mean.

Reading Dickens makes me miss studying literature, analyzing it, writing about it, as I did in university and as I might have continued doing if I had followed a different path. But I only miss it in a momentary kind of way, not a deep regretful kind of way. I just see so much in a novel like this and want to spend more time pulling it apart.

* * * *

Now I have to re-read the two plays we're seeing in Stratford this year, which I find really increases my enjoyment of productions of Shakespeare. So between now and July 13, As You Like It and The Tempest are on deck.

After that, I don't know whether I'm up for another novel, or one of the many nonfiction titles crowding my list.

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