I know there are those among us in the reading world who don’t like Dickens because they consider him too descriptive, too meandering. I am not one of them. His descriptions and the strength of characterization he achieves through them are what make his writing delightful to me. This description of Barnard’s Inn where Pip is taken by Mr. Wemmick to stay with Mr. Pocket is perfect:
We entered this haven through a wicket-gate, and were disgorged by an introductory passage into a melancholy little square that looked to me like a flat burying-ground. I thought it had the most dismal trees in it, and the most dismal sparrows, and the most dismal cats, and the most dismal houses (in number half a dozen or so), that I had ever seen. I thought the windows of the sets of chambers into which these houses were divided, were in every stage of dilapidated blind and curtain, crippled flower-pot, cracked glass, dusty decay, and miserable makeshift; while To Let To Let To Let, glared at me from empty rooms, as if no new wretches ever came there, and the vengeance of the soul of Barnard were being slowly appeased by the gradual suicide of the present occupants and their unholy interment under the gravel. A frouzy mourning of soot and smoke attired this forlorn creation of Barnard, and it had strewn ashes on its head, and was undergoing penance and humiliation as a mere dust-hole. Thus far my sense of sight; while dry rot and wet rot and all the silent rots that rot in neglected roof and cellar–rot of rat and rot of mouse and bug and coaching-stables near at hand besides–addressed themselves faintly to my sense of smell, and moaned, “Try Barnard’s Mixture.” (Part 2, chapter 2)
It turns out that The Classics Club of which I am a part isn’t defunct; apparently the original blog was taken down, but I recently found the new one. Each month there’s a meme–a question to answer–so I thought I’d play along. Here’s July’s question:
Have you ever read a biography on a classic author? If so, tell us about it. If you had already read works by this author, did reading a biography of his/her life change your perspective on the author’s writing? Why or why not? // Or, if you’ve never read a biography of a classic author, would you? Why or why not?
I’m not a big reader of nonfiction, though I do appreciate a biography very occasionally. The only biography of a classic author that comes to mind is one I read a few years ago–The Narnian by Alan Jacobs. I count C.S. Lewis as one of my favorite authors, so I really enjoyed this biography of him and learned quite a bit about him, too. (Click through and read my thoughts on the book for more details.)
I’m currently immersed in Great Expectations, and I’m enjoying it immensely. Following that vein, I think I’d like to read the nonfiction piece (biography?) Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens by Robert Gottlieb (reviewed here by Janet). I also really meant to read The Brontë Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne by Catherine Reef (reviewed here by Sherry) back when it was shortlisted for the 2013 Cybils in the YA nonfiction category. Maybe I’ll get to it after I read Jane Eyre for my IRL bookclub later this fall.
So many books, so little time! :-)
It was not because I was faithful, but because Joe was faithful, that I never ran away and went for a soldier or a sailor. It was not because I had a strong sense of the virtue of industry, but because Joe had a strong sense of the virtue of industry, that I worked with tolerable zeal against the grain. It is not possible to know how far the influence of any amiable honest-hearted duty-doing man flies out into the world; but it is very possible to know how it has touched one’s self in going by, and I know right well, that any good that intermixed itself with my apprenticeship came of plain contented Joe, and not of restlessly aspiring discontented me. (Volume 1, chapter 14)