Thursday, 19 January 2012

This week's reading.

This week is as busy as last week, however unlike last week I am getting an awful lot of practical, real-life, adult stuff (boring stuff) done. So this is good, however getting time to myself to read has been almost impossible, especially as I'm on a bit of a deadline. But I am still managing to find some time for a few pages here and a chapter there. War and Peace is going ever so slowly, but that's fine. I am really enjoying Les Misérables having, in week one, declared that it was the most boring thing ever written. I'm looking forward to reading the third chapter in the next day or so (which means we're into the third week of the year... Gosh...). I finished David Copperfield last week (and am struggling for an idea for a post: the one thing that I really want to write about would spoil it for people who haven't read it, so I can't do that, but this is not to say I didn't enjoy it: I loved it) and am just starting Bleak House. I am not far in at all, but I must say it has one of the most wonderful descriptions of London that I've come across:
London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets, as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, nd it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elaphantine lizard up Holburn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a black drizzle with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes - gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in the mire. Horses, scarecely better; splashed to their very blinkers.
Foot passengers, jostling one another's umbrellas, in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest. 
Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it slows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping, and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex Marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of the great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little 'prentice boy on the deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds. 
Gas looming through the fog in divers places in the streets, much as the sun may, from the spongey fields, be seen to loom by husbandman and ploughboy. Most of the shops lighted two hours before their time - as the gas seems to know, for it has a haggard and unwilling look. 
The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog the densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest, near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation: Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.
This is the opening few passages of Bleak House, and I hope it makes you want to join me! I can't help but remember the post, that post: my post where I criticise Charles Dickens's opening sentence for Oliver Twist: the post that is the most popular on this blog by over 900 hits. As I've said a few times this year, I take it all back!

As for other reading... Why, I don't know, but I'd like to start reading Ariel and The Colossus by Sylvia Plath this evening (well, night, it's after 1am now). I think because, like with Virginia Woolf, I know more about her than her poetry, so I'd like to give these a read.

Finally, partly because I've not had much reading time, and partly because I'm so excited with my Dickens Challenge, I'm desperate to start The Old Curiosity Shop and Dombey and Son. At the moment, I just cannot read enough, which is lucky because the readathon is almost upon us!


  1. I LOVE that passage from Bleak House! I have read it over and over and can't wait to read the book in full. Probably next year. I want to get the big three read first. :)

  2. Oliver Twist, Great Expectation, and David Copperfield, yes? :)

  3. That's such a gorgeous passage. I've never been to London, but it's almost as if I could see and smell what Dickens saw and smelt everyday.
    I'm so glad you loved David Copperfield and grew to enjoy Les Misérables. I can't wait to read your posts about it.

  4. Yes, except add A Tale of Two Cities and subtract Oliver Twist, which I have already read. :D

  5. I am 25 percent into Great Expectations-if I focus on it enough I can read it and maybe also Bleak House by Feb 7-Dickens 200 Day-I will hold off on Dickens related posts until then-I am really enjoying Great Expectations as Dickens only first person work

  6. mel u - Great Expectations was amazing :)

    Jillian - well, looking forward to reading your thoughts, but it wasn't one of my favourites :)

    And Caro - yes, the passage was perfect, it made it so clear what it was like, I could have been there with him when I was reading it :)



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