19th Century Literature

Nat Case ncase at hedbergmaps.com
Tue Jul 31 13:24:53 EDT 2001

Given the thread about nineteenth-century lit as a window into an 
alien world, I'm curious how people react to 19th-C books vs. modern 
books that try to deal with the nineteenth century in its own 
language, for instance:

Michael Palliser's THE QUINCUNX, which I found pretty depressing in 
the same way I find some of Dickens' bleaker books.

Sherlock Holmes pastiches, especially Laurie King's recent ones (I 
know these are more Edwardian than Victorian, but still...).

AS Byatt's POSSESSION, in which the characters arguably spend 
entirely too much time in the minds of Victorians... I loved it, but 
found myself having to gloss over some of the made-up Victorian 
writing just to keep going.

I think one of the ways that it's hard for modern writers to get into 
the mind-frame one needs to really reproduce nineteenth-century 
styles, is in pacing, both at a micro and macro level. I tried 
starting Emma recently, and found my mind racing in a 
late-twentieth-century way, impatient with the comparatively slow 
pace. It must be difficult for a modern author to not just put on the 
brakes (that would show in the writing), but to actually adopt as 
modus operandi the more deliberate pacing of Austen and Dickens, 
especially in dialogue and interior monologue.

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