I’ve started reading Little Dorrit for the third or fourth time…skim-reading it in places, because I long ago decided that the only way to read Dickens is to jump when you start to get bored, because there’s no denying he gave a wealth of detail and sometimes it’s about something you just don’t need a wealth of detail about. That prison in Marseilles at the beginning for instance – I never will know what that’s there for, because I invariably get bored before I find out so I skip it.
But don’t go thinking it’s inherently boring, or that all of it’s boring, or that it’s boring in proportion to its quantity, or anything like that. The truth is that he was a god damn genius, and he really is doing something with all those words. It’s not slack, it’s not verbiage for the sake of verbiage. It’s detail.
Like, there’s the bit in chapter 3 where Affery takes Arthur up to the garret room where he’ll sleep for the night, and there’s a very detailed description of what’s in the room and what the room is like. I skipped some, because there was a lot, but I knew if I’d read it it would have been good stuff. That’s how Dickens is. You sort of have to skip in order to keep going, but you know you’re skipping rich writing. But I didn’t skip it all and I was rewarded with a real yell of laughter because at the end of the list of furniture was
…a washing-stand that looked as if it had stood for ages in a hail of dirty soapsuds, and a bedstead with four bare atomies of posts, each terminating in a spike, as if for the dismal accommodation of lodgers who might prefer to impale themselves.
That’s Dickens for you.
Anybody read it? Anybody want to read it along with me?