Great Expectations ⎟ Pip’s ‘sympathetic’ narration

 

great expectations Pip's 'sympathetic' narrations

Dear Reader,

I have read the first two months worth of Great Expectations [on page 132/457]. I have begun reading the third month’s releases, and I have to say, Dickens is really great at the cliff-hanger. I intended to do reviews based on each section, but I now consider it might be a bit dull to just garble plot at you. I want to do some character sketches on Miss Havisham and Mrs Joe Gargery; I want to pick out the ways women, femininity, and the disavowal of woman-ness (ooooo, such a loaded invented term) is treated by Dickens and our narrator, Pip. I know that I am going to want to include Estella and Biddy, too, so I thought that I would finish my re-read before I endeavoured that task.

I’ve read to the part where Mrs Joe has been attacked by Orlick? Did he? Didn’t he? Orlick enrages me because he is that person that reverses Mrs Joe’s nature so she becomes this ideal Victorian woman in the domestic sphere, who causes no strife. Except, now she is unable to tend to the house. I suppose the point is, throughout the beginning of the novel, that Mrs Joe does very little. But that is how Pip represents Mrs Joe to us, and we have to consider Pip’s narrative unreliable. I mean, food just appears in front of Pip at Christmas without much thought given to how much work Mrs Joe put into making the meal. We are given other clues to draw the conclusion of Pip’s unreliability; when he is asked to re-tell his experiences to adults, he does not give truthful accounts that coincide to what we’ve previously been told. Consider, for example, when he describes his visit to Miss Havisham’s to Mrs Joe and Mr Pumblechook very differently than what he describes to us. Later, he confesses to Joe that he made up what actually happened. Throughout these early sections, Pip is often afraid to confess to the truth or tell Joe things because he is afraid he will not be believed because of his past indiscretions.  We should keep this in mind.

That Pip confesses his lies to the adults to us works to convince the reader that we are getting the honest narration from Pip. We sympathise, or empathise depending on how well the effect works, with being young and being misunderstood or the anxiety of having to relay our experiences when in the past we’ve not been entirely honest or truthful. Thus, when Pip describes Miss Havisham, thus far, we really only get his account. Mr Pumblechook, when he offers Pip to Miss Havisham, says he has not met her. He cannot give an account of her personal character other than what he has learnt through others, including what Pip will tell him. Joe, who does meet Miss H, does not even respond to her. He does not give an account of her to collude with Pip’s description of her in a decayed wedding dress with spiders emerging from the black hole that is her wedding cake (obviously Joe did not witness this peculiarity, but the point still stands). We take Pip’s word that Miss H is what she is.

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The narration functions such that we are meant to identify with Pip. And, I think that the reason many people dislike Pip is because, perhaps, they do not identify with him–so they find him unreliable, annoying, prone to terrible choices, and a bit whiney. So, I thought my earlier reluctance to re-read Great Expectations was me just being fickle to this Dickensian experience, but I think it has to do more with the ways my skills of empathy have shifted; I remove myself from Pip and his actions, rather than trying to identify with him. Of course, there are things I do identify with, and that’s what makes Dickens so clever–it’s hard to untangle the web. So, perhaps, those readers who find the book dull or difficult to read are just not convinced by Pip and the story he is telling.

Thus, an ongoing thread of discussion that I will maintain throughout this series on Great Expectations is Pip’s narration. Pip does share politely embarrassing accounts of his youth. The story with the convict will become a formative part of the plot and Pip’s (false-)actualization of being a gentleman, but he does share his role in aiding said convict to escape. He thieves from his brother-in-law, Joe, and takes the Christmas pork pie, and gives it to the escaped man. These are fairly damning acts. But they are also the acts of a child, who is alone, afraid, and who has no person(s) but us to confide (as an adult). That is something we need to remember, Pip, as a child, would not have had the language to articulate how and what he feels the way he is able to describe as an educated adult, reflecting. Joe, thus, becomes a foil to Pip’s self-expression. And we should take note of the way that Joe narrates his past (as told to us by Pip) and how Pip expresses his own sense of growing up, coming of age, and years of formulation.

If we need a clear sense of Pip’s inability to express himself, when he is young, we need to look no further than his shyness around Miss Havisham and Estella. The older Pip clads his narrative by explaining that he was gaining a consciousness of his lowly class, but younger Pip is quiet, shy, and rather upset. When he is left alone after this first encounter, he cries. He cannot verbally express his emotions, so we are told that he was overwrought. Tears are important here, too, to contrast Estella’s learned hardness, crafted and fuelled by Miss H, with Pip’s emotional display that enhances his softness and vulnerability. Pip defends his display of emotions in the description of his next visit, when he encounters the young boy who encourages him to fight him. Pip easily wins the fight against this physically soft young man. Thus, we get the older Pip forming his younger self as wronged by a particular kind of femininity that is wrong but more masculine than the supposedly genteel, young man, who performs a false masculinity and cannot defend himself against Pip. Even in this encounter, Pip cannot communicate to the other boy what he feels. He simply does what he is told to do. It is the elder Pip who constructs and contrasts the characteristics of other persons to inform us how we should read and relate to him and his story.

Alright, reader, I had better get back to reading more about Pip. Let me know what you’re reading and what you think about it in the comments. 

Heaps of love,

wordplay xx

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Great Expectations ⎟ Materiality of the Book & Serialization

great expectations - materiality of the book & serialization

I called this project Serial because of the serialization of Dickens’s novels. Serialization is really fascinating; I would describe it as being akin to the scheduled release of television shows. In fact, that is *definitely* the origin of the filmic medium. And, that, to me, is absolutely hilarious—can we all share a group chuckle? I don’t know why I find it so peculiar; we often use analogy to describe things that are historical or out of our current experience, but I just love the idea that the serialization of novels/fictions is how we consume cinematic/filmic media instalments of television shows. I imagine that DVD collections, Netflix, and other streaming services that offer all of the episodes would be akin to the publication of the whole book. Would I carry around a boxed-set of DVDs? Maybe. Like, if it was Harry Potter or The West Wing or Poirot, mais oui, but of course!

Great Expectations was published in 35 parts from 1 December 1860 to 3 August 1861 in All the Year Round, a magazine of which Dickens owned the majority holdings. It was also published in the U.S by Harper’s Weekly.

  1. December 1860 had 5 parts released, consisting of chapters 1-8.
  2. January 1861 had 4 parts released, consisting of chapters 9-15.
  3. February had 3 parts released, consisting of chapters 16-21.
  4.  March had 5 parts released, consisting of chapters 22-29.
  5. April had 4 parts released, consisting of chapters 30-37.
  6. May had 4 parts released, consisting of chapters 38-42.
  7. June had 5 parts released, consisting of chapters 43-52.
  8. July had 4 parts released, consisting of chapters 53-57.
  9. August had 1 part released, consisting of chapters 58-59.

Rather than follow each part’s release date, which would leave me with 35 posts on Great Expectations, [Bah, said Scrooge, Humbug///]. I will go by the monthly releases, which should give me about 8-9 plot-driven discussions, with space to add a few more posts or not, to talk about things that I feel I’ve over-looked or about which I’ve changed my mind.

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First serial of Great Expectations. Courtesy of: George C. Gordon Library.

Let’s consider how the release of the parts of the novel in serial form make the work more digestible and approachable for a reader. According to Robert Patten in Charles Dickens and His Publishers, about 100,000 copies of All the Year Round sold each week. The portability of the magazine meant that it could be shared, meaning that, although 100,000 copies sold each week, the readership was much higher. Dickens’s stories were read aloud in groups, shared, and, I like to imagine, pilfered by unsuspecting readers in coffee shops, the most dubious of public spheres. That is a lot of readers, particularly in an age (in Britain) where literacy was inconsistent. 

I think that most of the reason readers don’t pick up Dickens’s works is because of how large they are. But imagine, not watching Orange is the New Black because there are TOO MANY episodes, without SENSE, am I right? The hand-held, portability of the magazine serialization made Dickens’s words travel, across space, classes, and nations. I love to imagine the sheer volume of Dickens’s words travelling across London as rail travel made living out of the city viable and desirable, John Wemmick, a character in this very story, for example. Work on the Tube, as it is known now, began in 1860, as the Metropolitan Railway, from Paddington toe Farringdon Street. That is something we should also remember when reading Dickens. Just as we are attached to new and developing technology, advances are also to be noted and found in Dickens’s works. We might not notice them because they have existed for us for all time, but railways and travel by rail was a huge topic of debate. Let’s not forget that the railway in Tolstoy stood for the dangers of modernity, the artifice of women (such as in Anna Karenina). 

So we’ve noted that Dickens’s words were portable. The heavy tomes that we now, lovingly, lug around in handbags or saddlebags, whichever your fancy, were not the same that its original readers experiences. Indeed, collated publications of Dickens’s novels usually occurred within the year of its last serial publication. So, they did exist in his time. Today, I sometimes think that the books we read in public also dictate to other people information that we may or may not want to share about ourselves. Like the clothes we wear and the airs we adopt, the public face of reading also indicates things about us to other people. I’m not sure I have any conclusions to draw about this at this time, but it’s something to consider about the books we read, where we read them, and their visibility.

Let’s also take a moment to think about the illustrations of Dickens’s novels. My edition does not have any illustrations, which is such a loss. It doesn’t make the book more adult when you remove the illustrations!!!! I love that Dickens’s stories had accompanying illustrations. I think that the visual world offered by these illustrations gives so much more to the text. It opens a space for more information and different interpretations of the texts. It also provides information that less literate or less-well-read readers can use to piece together information. Since, my edition doesn’t have illustrations, I am going to have to align them when I’m reading. From a cursory examination of the original publications, the illustrations were a later addition. So, I forgive Barnes and Noble their lack of illustrations–not. Ahah! The original illustrations were completed by Frank Stone in 1862; he completed eight for the Library Edition. Later illustrators include F.A Fraser, John Mclennan, Sol Eytinge Jr., and Henry Mathew Brock. 

The serialization of the novel also permits the author to employ cliffhangers and other plot techniques to keep the reader hooked. This might make the work seem to be fighting for your attention, or to have artificial highs and lows, but it also means that the author has to work hard to keep the story gripping and engaging because, if nineteenth-century readers are anything like me, I always forget to tune in next week to find out what happens. Luckily, I have the internet to sort that out. But, I also think that as the member of a very small family (there is only 4 of us AT ALL), with friends strewn across the world, I have an experience that means I hear about a lot less things on a daily basis, compared to when I was in high school or at uni. 

I love the disparity between our experience with Dickens as somewhat unapproachable and out of touch–his books are big AF and his language is complex and full of allusions and his experiences and those of his contemporaries. I am sure that many allusions flew over people’s heads, as they do mine, but that’s part of reading and all creative media. I mean, when I was about 12 and I tried to read Little Dorrit I had no idea what the heck a Marseilles was, turns out it’s a place–HAHA. But because I didn’t know it, it made me want to know it. So, I lived life, and when I learnt that Marseilles was a place, I got it more. And, later, as I learnt history and ideas of nationality and character, I got that the story started outside England in a very meaningful way–but we’ll get to Little Dorrit a little later. Spoiler: IT IS MY FAVOURITE DICKENS *jumps up an down like an over-excited toddler*

Heaps of love,

wordplay xx

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Misha Update ⎟ Escape from mount doom

Dear Reader,

I thought I would keep you updated about Misha. She has an ulcer on her eye, likely, from puncturing it. She has cataracts, so her vision isn’t quite top gear, and it is likely she bopped her eye on a bush or something. Before Thursday, her eye was red, occasionally, but I always did a salt wash and put soothing eye-drops in. Unfortunately, she must have rubbed her eye into the carpet and opened the wound. So, for two days she had her tail down. It was so depressing to see her so upset. I mean, she ALWAYS has her tail up. Even when she’s pissed off you didn’t share your food with her. She always wags that tail.

Her tail is back up, and wagging. That is such a relief. She has been under constant watch. She gets (new) anti-bacterial eye drops every 2 hours with some freeze-dried strawberries for a treat. I think she puts up with the drops because she loves those strawberries so much. Her eye is looking a lot better than before. She is still squinting a bit, particularly when she is tired. It will take some time for it to heal fully, and I’ve been on constant watch to make sure she doesn’t rub her eye. Believe me, this clever pooh-maker has tried to fool me. I didn’t trust her on her own, and I don’t like to put the cone on her because I want her to be encouraged to drink (because of her heart issues). So, I brought her in the bathroom with me, and she started to cry. I let her out once, and she face planted the carpet to rub her eye. I grabbed her, brought her back in and made her wait. I’m washing my hands and she starts crying again. I let her out, and she immediately face plants. So I had to pick her up, and Misha became the new paper towel advert. Need to dry your hands? Spilled some milk? Here is the super-absorbent Misha-nator.

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I know that some people are really skeptical about dogs and pets, but they are just so unequivocally lovely. They make your heart feel so whole, and your heart breaks when you think of them in any sort of pain or discomfort. I don’t know, they make life have meaning because they’re existence is so dear and precious.

🦁🦁🦁

Other updates:

I’ve decided to re-read Great Expectations because I’m a little forlorn over the fact that I don’t know how I am going to fund my PhD. I’ve been accepted on a course, but as an international student, I don’t know if I can afford it. The programme is so specific to what I want to study, and it breaks my heart to think I might not be able. I don’t know. I decided to read some Dickens because, honestly, he gets the reality of not having money. It’s rather a chronic problem for a lot of people lately, and it has driven a lot of people to be mean and cruel to one another. To divide one another based on race and class and accuse each other of terrible things. Isn’t that what the proverb says, divide and conquer? It seems to be working.

I’m not giving up. No. Every fibre of my being wants to study. And, this book is so good. It can’t be right that such goodness exists in a world without hope. There are other beautiful goods, too. I guess that what books are. They remind of us goodness. They remind us of hope and dreams. Sometimes, they shock us with their reality and their honesty and their blunt vitriol. Yet, words give us the vehicle of mobility–that is priceless.

I’m going to add this book to my Serial project. And, I think this is one of those books that wakes you up. Mostly, because I read it before, and re-reading it reminds me of the comfort of words…and how we can go back to books and change our minds about them. We can go back to books more or less wiser and see and read things we didn’t before. We can share our thoughts, still miss things, and ten years later, re-read the book and say, ‘I see this, now’.

great expectations- read with me

Read with me 🙂 I’ll be tweeting <<here>> and blogging about the book at this site. As you can see I’m about 1/5 of the way through the book. Let me know what you think of the book or Dickens, generally.

Heaps of love,
wordplay xx

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Our Mutual Friend #1 ⎜Death, Veneerings, & Doppelgangers

OurMutualFriend

Charles Dickens’s last completed novel was Our Mutual Friend; it was serialized into twenty parts between 1864 and 1865. Our Mutual Friend has been hailed (in many a book blurb) to be a paradigmatic shift in Dickens’s writing; it would bring a new age and development, so to speak, in English literature. Unfortunately, we can never know this because Dickens died whilst writing The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Dickens’s take on the mystery novel. In a friendly rivalry, he was trying to show Wilkie Collins what a mystery looked like–Collins’s famously wrote The Moonstone (it’s pretty good), TS Eliot claimed that Collins, here, invented detective fiction (throwing shade on Edgar Allan Poe). But, let’s return to Our Mutual Friend (OMF).

OMF begins on the cold River Thames, with a young girl and father in small boat that easily could be overturned in the waves. The young girl persists, against her father’s demand, in rowing the boat because she does not want to be next to the body. The dead body. The characters, aside from the body, sweep the river to find flotsam and jetsam–collecting what they find and pocketing what they may. Who is the dead body? Well, we will have to wait before we find out.

In the following chapter, we are introduced to the Veneerings–a couple who are entrenched in polite society. Obviously they are new money, their furniture isn’t old stock, it is new, covered with the fresh veneer of ready money. Dickens doesn’t relent with this pun, and he introduces their entrance into society, a Mr Twemlow, as a table–filled with many leaves. Twemlow is important to them because he provides their access to society, to the right types of people, and the right connections; but he is paraded like an expensive, well-laid, set of furniture, collected and displayed when one must impress. The Veneerings are throwing a fancy dinner party, with the usual incompetents present and two lawyers, who absolutely hate their profession.

A young boy brings news to the party and to one lawyer in particular–Mr. Mortimer Lightwood–that a body has been found. Who is the body, one might ask? Well, the rich are always in the know, aren’t they? *taps nose knowingly* It is the body of the young man that Mortimer had just been discussing, as polite gossip, at the dinner party. His father, a rather unlikeable but wealthy man of the Dust industry (laugh again). Dickens’s humorous narrative style informs us that the father disowned both of this children, his daughter for not marrying the right man and his son for defending the daughter. The son jumps ship, literally, and goes to the Cape to make wine. The father dies, in the meantime, and leaves his estate and money to his son, on the condition he marries a girl (we know not yet who). There is a provision in the will for a servant of the household. Should the son not followthrough with his dead father’s matrimonial wishes, the servant will inherit all.

THE HARMON MURDER

All are convinced that the man found, John Harmon, was murdered. But there is no concrete evidence to point at any guilty party. The money he travelled with is missing. He does not have any identification on his person, but is identified by the ship’s captain, the same ship off of which he fell.

But Dickens does not disappoint. Bella Wilfer is said matrimonial conditional bride that would direct the Dust funds into Harmon’s dead pockets. She is depicted as a hysterical woman, biting her hair and acting outrageous. Despite this trope-ish depiction of a young, unmarried, and, therefore, hysterical woman, Bella is astutely able to describe the perils of being poor and the unbearable, prison-like sentence poverty casts upon its bed fellows.

A plot twist is born. A young man arrives to rent the front room from the Wilfers. A young man who bears a startling resemblance to the dead John Harmon.

Indeed, there are other characters to touch upon, such as the family who finds John Harmon, Gaffer, Lizzie, and Charley Hexam–father, daughter, and son, respectively. But, I will save them for later serial section.

NB:
There are 20 divisions of OMF, so I will be following that structure. Instead of breaking down the plot for each section, I will likely do something creative in response to what I have read. If I feel I have to explain a plot section, I will append a little summary.

Heaps of Love,
WordPlay Xx
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Chapter the First: In Which Things Are Introduced

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Charles Dickens was an English novelist, who lived in the nineteenth century. He was born in 1812 and died in 1870, at age of 58. This prolific novelist has been praised, condemned, idolised, and ‘read’. He gained success with the serialized publication of The Pickwick Papers in 1836. His next publication, Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy’s Progress, serialized throughout 1837-9, is our focus, right now.

The aim of these posts is to reclaim Dickens as entertaining and fun. In an age without television, Dickens’s texts are drama-filled performances. He crafted his novels to reflect acted entertainment. Indeed, where Dickens wrote Oliver, now the Charles Dickens House Museum, 48 Doughty Street in London, upon the lectern that he designed for his American reading tour stands his novel, scrawled with his own writing. His words hang in the air, a crescendo of emotion that falls, into the abyss, on empathetic ears.

Dickens lived in an age that has been characterised by the surge of modernity and progress. And, although considered a golden age of trade and wealth, poverty and debt were very real crises of the age—as they remain today. Throughout many of Dickens’s novels, but especially in Oliver Twist and Little Dorrit, he created a realistic and non-idealized portrait of poverty and crime. As we will see, crime and cruelty are not restricted to the underclasses, but even the (very) rich and landed classes may commit crimes. Such a theme becomes more apparent in Little Dorrit, but we’ll talk about that in another serial edition.

When Oliver was serialized, Victoria became Queen of England, so England was not yet encapsulated under the moniker, Victorian. Brought up under the care of a strict mother, Victoria and her reign have been characterised by propriety and chastity. The perception of Victorians as pure and chaste, is, perhaps, drawn from Victoria’s later obsession with the purity of her children, especially her sons. But we must also remember that Victoria and her husband were madly in love with each other, had many children, and were a very intimate couple. If anything, we learn from this example that the Victorian era is wrought with contradictions and anxieties about those contradictions–much like any age.

Dickens’s depiction of poverty and crime in Oliver Twist toys with those anxieties and contradictions. His cast of characters include crime lords, robbers, prostitutes, bumbling parochial authorities, cruel relatives, and kindhearted guardians. Yet, although these characters are identified by these labels, if Michel Foucault has taught us anything, we know that these characters also defy their labels. Except, perhaps, the kindhearted guardians.

Before I give too much away (and spoilers will be included in these posts), let’s meet our characters:

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(from the left) Charley Bates, Oliver Twist, Artful Dodger, (behind) Bill Sikes, Fagin, and Nancy. [Illustration by Phiz. or Hablot knight Browne]

In this print, we meet the motley crew of London’s crime world: the young boys recruited into Fagin’s service, the resisting Oliver, Bill Sikes–the housebreaker, Fagin–the head of the crew, and Nancy–trained by Fagin to steal, but her gender and association to crime signifies her fall from grace. Nancy, is one of the more complex and beautiful characters.

***

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(from left) Mr. Brownlow, Mrs. Bedwin, Oliver’s Mother (in image), and Oliver. [Illustrated by Phiz.]

Meet Mr Brownlow. His portly figure shows he is well-fed, and has a comfortable income. The room features peacock feathers, reminding the viewer that Empire is not far from the reaches of a man like Mr Brownlow. Indeed, the painting that holds up the feathers, has palm trees, a reclining female figure, and turbaned figures. The print presents us with a claustrophobic scene, in the corner or a kitchen, but the world opens up through the painting on the wall. Additionally, Mr Brownlow appears to be looking at the painting on the wall, extending our gaze beyond the plot, rather than at comparing Oliver and the other painting on the wall, the portrait of Oliver’s mother. Finally, Mrs, Bedwin is Mr. Brownlow’s housekeeper, and she is the type of woman that you could imagine would always have a cup of sweet tea and a hug ready.

***

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(from left) Oliver (seated), Fagin, and Monks (illustrated by Phiz.)

Such a brilliant illustration. Dickens’s writing at this part is also brilliantly frightening. Monks is a name we’ll want to recall.

***

The workhouse women, Mrs. Bumble (neé Corney), and Mr. Bumble (formerly the parochial beadle)

The workhouse women, Mrs Bumble (neé Corney), and Mr Bumble (formerly the parochial beadle)

Mrs Bumble chastising Mr Bumble. Ugh. Just desserts? Yes. Mr Bumble is too innocently named. He is not a bumbling man; he is greedy, lazy, and hypocritical. He treats the orphans under his care with cruelty and contempt. He will feature in an upcoming post, so, let’s look forward to that.

***

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(from left) Rose Maylie, Mr Brownlow, Nancy, and Noah Claypole (illustrated by Phiz.)

Pictured above, Rose Maylie and Mr Brownlow learn of the whereabouts of Monks. Noah eavesdrops on Fagin’s orders. Rose is the adopted child of Mrs Maylie, and her gentle heart and status of orphan makes her the perfect character to care for Oliver. More on that later!

***

Next week, I will upload a post about Poverty, Poor laws, and the Virtue of Wealth. I look forward to opening a dialogue about Dickens and his texts.

Heaps of Love,
WordPlay Xx

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Coming Soon: Everything Oliver—WHAT THE DICKENS?!

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Dickens serialised Oliver, and so, too, will I. I am working on a project, in which I will serialise Dickens’s novels, starting with Oliver Twist. The nature of literary analysis means that, sometimes, things can get a bit long. No one really wants to read a blog that has an never-ending scroll. So, to keep this neat, simple, tidy, and approachable (for me and you), I will produce thematic posts that contain a particular reading of the text, chapter, or notion. This way, each post will be new, exciting, short, and approachable. Although, one will not have to wait for the ship to arrive with the newest chapters of Dickens’s serialisation, let us always anticipate new things with such eagerness.

I look forward to regularly updating and posting new ideas. If you want to participate, please do. Write a blog post in response! Just comment below any post to which you want to respond, and I will link to your blog in my future post (please link mine in your post, too). Let’s build a reading community, and let’s change our reading habits. Thus, we change the world.

Warmest wishes,
Word Play, Xx

List of Posts:
1) Chapter the First: In Which Things are Introduced 
2)

*Forest Image from planetfigure.com

On Privacy and Narrative.

unnamed-6The act of reading is an intimate act. You sit alone in your flat. You become alone in a crowded space, as your mind submerges into the text. You hear the author’s words resonate from the silent paper as waves of sound pulsate through your body. At the perfect harmony, you are shattered. Reading allows for a personal intimacy, an intimacy with the text, and an intimacy with the character. Whether or not the narrator is reliable pressures our ability to trust our access to characters’ private lives. Part of us may let go, most of us may cling to the edges of the newly bound or ruggedly aged book in our hands. In my own experience, there is always a sense of wanting privacy and self-freedom, whilst also wanting someone to, omnipotently, understand our own narratives. We don’t want to have to explain ourselves. We want an empathetic audience to our lives, but on some level, wouldn’t that just be insufferable? I’ve been thinking, today, about the need for privacy and space whilst reading Oliver Twist. Of course, many narratives do not give the mundane reality of a person’s day. For instance, not once has Oliver had a wee. Am I the only one that this bothers? (haha, please don’t run away with the idea that I think about this and this alone). But such mundane acts are the building blocks of life. A narrative takes the reader through the character’s movements–as much as we can see, as much as is pertinent to the narrator and/or author’s articulations. Reading can seem especially invasive if we are reading a memoir or a memoir-styled fiction. It seems quite perplexing, in a humuorous sort of way, that to escape this world and slip into a quiet sanctuary, that we, unnoticed by the cast, emerge into other peoples’ lives. Of course, I am also going to claim that, although some might argue the observer effect is null-and-void in this context, it is at the forefront of our engagement with the text, story, film, or television show. We always bring our own biases and knowledges to a book. We each have our own particular strengths. I, for instance, can recall quotations from theoretical texts, but I find it much harder to recall lines from literature. I am incredibly envious of people who can memorise these quotations. I’ll have to work on it, I suppose. Back to my point, we always bring our own state of mind (at the time), our own set of knowledges, our own abilities and lack of ability to empathise, and our own interpretations to what we are viewing or beholden. Our observer effect does not effect the ink’s immutability upon the page, but it is key to our understanding of what we read. We cannot change what happens upon a screen, but how we engage with it is our own observer effect. This may be dubious in other areas of life, ‘research’, or writings, but our nature to engage with things on nuanced and varied measures is precisely the (abstract) beauty of reading. Thus, in our own small ways, as we escape into these worlds, you can align or malign with a particular character. The books become about us, inasmuch as they are about other things. Perhaps, that is why in cases of extreme emotion–it is difficult to lose yourself in a book. But, I’ll always remind myself. The lustful craving for privacy and lack of intimacy is willfully and beautifully undone by the power of narrative, character development, and/even the deconstruction of narrative itself. Those silly post-modernists; shucks.

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Additionally, I am setting myself a goal of Five Books in March. I’m trying to whiz through Oliver, but so far, I’ve been a little slow with it. My own narrative continues to drown out Oliver’s. But, if anyone is intimidated by Dickens, do read this book. Dickens has such a beautiful way of phrasing things. tumblr_nkpcm0aFEe1sb2oz2o1_1280 Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? I’ve read P&P, and if I don’t get to it this month, I might save it for early spring (Canadian weather). To me, it is a spring novel. Maybe, I can bring it forth sooner through literature? Also, I picked up my copy of Northanger Abbey today and was gently perusing it. This might also contribute to my slow pace with Oliver. Woopsiedaisy. I hope you’ll read along with me and/or let me know what you think about these books or a book you’re reading. Be the courageous ones I know you all to be. I wish you peace and happiness.

Heaps of Love,
Word Play Xx

Knits and Books

IMG_4852 I am currently working on a knitting project. It will be a hat, when all is said and done. The border will be knit in one direction and then I’ll knit the top in the other. 🙂 It is my intention to work quite slowly on this project because it’s one of those things. Normally, I knit quite quickly and I stay up even later to finish projects, but this time I am knitting patiently and I do believe it will be quite pretty. I’m using quite fine wool, it is alpaca and deliciously soft. I have 8cm / 3 inches complete, and I know I’ll probably have to knit to at least 21 or 22 inches before I begin the top of the hat.  Now, onto books. I’ve been trying to find a unique way to keep myself on track, and I think I’ll just set up my own bookclub of one. Currently, I’m reading The Iliad by Homer and The Pickwick Papers by Dickens.  IMG_4853 Both texts are quite unique, and the pairing is like trying a new dish. I am going to try and work my way through quite a few novels and texts this year. I will read The Odyssey in the near future, but I will break up my time between Iliad and Odysseus’s journey home.  In order to make sure I’m not overwhelming my to-be-read list, I will probably set myself a currently reading and the next book I want to read, rather than sit down and make a plan of attack. I will choose books on a more short-term basis because I think books have stronger magic upon us at certain times, and we should respect that magic. Additionally, my pace might seem a little slow because I also like to do background reading on some of the more historic works, such as Homer’s texts. I can write an entry on some of the history and critical theory on The Iliad if you would like. Let me know in the comments.  I’ll make a more effective and creative post about this bookclub of one. Feel free to read along with me, and let me know what you’re reading too or even if you want to read the same book too. I scoured Goodreads for ages to find a book club that hadn’t yet read the books I wanted to tackle, but I’m so fickle that nothing seemed to fit. I haven’t yet decided what I will read after these two texts, and part of that is because I am waiting for some books to come in the post.  What books are you guys reading, and what tips do you have to stay on track? Keep well and lots of love, X

Dickensian Tips for Yule Tidings and Beyond

Hear ye- Hear ye;;  A serial reader intends to crack a spine or two this
here year.

I have decided to undertake a Dickensian endeavour.  I will be outlining a reading schedule and attempt to make my way through a few of Dickens’s larger works, but Christmas Carol will be reserved for the month of December.  I will be setting myself about two months for the larger books, but may end up taking longer depending on school and, hopefully, work.

So the plan, so far, is: 

November (and into December) – Barnaby Rudge (if it can be found used)
December – Christmas Carol
January&February&March –  Our Mutual Friend (This text is properly long…oh dear)
April&May – Oliver Twist
June&July – A Tale of Two Cities

Dickens I have read: Great Expectations and Little Dorrit.
Dickens I want to read: The Old Curiosity Shop, Dombey and Son, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

If you have any suggestions as to books I should shift or alter, then I will consider a shift.  Of course, none of these are set in stone, due to availability of texts and my own schedule of research and essays.

Do look out for the future Dickensian tips of the day that will follow; mostly through twitter, but I may do a compilation of the most effective remedies to our ailments.

Best,
K