Eco, Chuckie D., who else?

hallieod at hallieod at
Mon Feb 10 16:56:55 EST 2003

Now guaranteed porn free!  Though my arguing ("discussing", please, 
*"discussing"*) with Melissa might not be considered spam free by 
everyone... :-)

>>>>Not liking Dickens is a sign of a highly developed mature literary taste,
>>>>in my opinion. Just because a pot boiler is 150 years old doesn't make it
>>>>any less of a pot boiler.
>>>I sure hope it's a sign of mature taste, because I don't think I'll ever
>>>appreciate Dickens.  It feels too much like work to me.
>>ARGH!  I go off to bed, exhausted from a couple of days of what has
>>become virtually running a hospital ward, and wake up to find this.
>>Melissa, I thought at least you'd be consistent in not letting people
>>dismiss writers and books this way. :-)
>Geez, Hallie, you want me to fight EVERY battle?  :)

Well, don't you *want* me to?  Or, maybe don't answer that one - I 
might sleep better if you don't. :-)  I guess it's just that I've got 
nothing else to do.  (That is of course to be read as heavily 

>Besides, there is a
>level on which Dickens can be evaluated in the same way as our modern
>"potboiler" writers like, for example, John Grisham.  Believe it or not, I
>don't consider it a pejorative.  Popular success is not to be laughed at.

You just *might* be able to make the case that calling Dickens a 
"pot-boiler" writer wasn't pejorative - though it'd be harder as you 
have previously made pretty dismissive remarks about John Grisham 
here.  But I defy you to turn "not liking Dickens is a sign of a 
highly developed mature literary taste" into a non-pejorative remark. 
;-)  I'm working really hard here not to break out into a whine 
suitable only in a child younger than 10 years of age.  "But it's not 
FAIR!  Why did you let HER get away with calling me names and you 
never let ME do it?"

>>And just to attempt to make you feel properly guilty (assuming that
>>the fact that I like Dickens, and think the way he used popular
>>traditions of the time was great, is nowhere near enough to
>>accomplish this), I offer you a quote from the dread Leavis:
>>	We may reasonably... see some Dickensian influence in
>>Conrad's use of melodrama, or what would have been melodrama in
>>Dickens; for in Conrad the end is a total significance of a
>>profoundly serious kind.  The reason for not including Dickens in the
>>line of great novelists  is implicit in this last phrase.... The
>>adult mind doesn't as a rule find in Dickens a challenge to an
>>unusual and sustained seriousness.
>>Does that accomplish the task?
>Doesn't that quote sort of say that Dickens isn't challenging to the adult
>mind?  So I'm still justified?  :)

Oh sure, you're justified, IF you want to associate yourself with F. 
R. Leavis (and not just Leavis, but Leavis in the days before his 
wife managed to get him to get him to loosen up a bit on Dickens). 
:-)  (He disses Hardy too, if it helps you get the mood I was trying 
to create!)

>Okay, seriously.  What's interesting to me about the way Dickens is
>perceived as a writer today is that there are so many divergent attitudes.
>Uneducated people just lump him in with all those old writers of classics
>and revere the name and the concept without ever reading his books--but
>among educated people there's this war about "yes he's great" and "no he's
>not" and what it comes down to is the fundamental assumptions you have about
>literary greatness and so forth.  So I think it's as valid to refer to
>Dickens as a mere writer of potboilers as it is to find his writing relevant
>today.  It's more revelatory than anything else, which stance you take.

That's interesting - I wonder if experience on this is slightly 
different on the two sides of the Atlantic.  I think it would have 
been hard for anyone of my generation over here to have managed not 
to read at least one Dickens in school, which might do away with the 
reverence-without-reading.  But our (University) Lit. courses  are so 
focused on a more inclusive study of books which might have been 
dismissed as "mere potboilers" a lit crit generation or so ago (_The 
Woman in White_ and _Dracula_ being good examples) that I haven't 
seen any of the debate you mention.  Of course, this is only my 
experience with the Open University, which is well-known as a 
subversive bunch of radicals. ;-)

I probably shouldn't even ask, but what do you think that finding 
Dickens relevant to today reveals?  I almost can't imagine anyone not 
finding a lot of what he writes relevant, though I can easily see 
disliking his style.

>And don't worry.  I haven't read anything by Dickens since high school, and
>I'm not going to dismiss him until I've given him one more shot.  Back then,
>I was concerned...well, have you ever read bios of people that say
>"So-and-so read _War and Peace_ when he was 8 years old" or things along
>those lines?  I was unduly influenced by the idea that if I was a Genius, I
>ought to be reading Genius books.  Being completely uninterested in _A Tale
>of Two Cities_ made me feel depressed.  I'm less worried about it now.

Lol.  I'd tend to suggest _Great Expectations_ if you want a 
recommendation for whenever you get around to giving him one more 
shot.  Not that I've read all of Dickens by any means, but GE is 
probably my favourite of all the ones I've read.  And then we could 
have a big old discussion about it! :-)  Ven should be all recovered 
by then and might be persuaded to join in (unless I'm mis-remembering 
and you're not a Dickens fan, Ven, in which case...)  (I won't say it 
as it might be RUDE.)


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