OK, this is gonna be old news to anyone who follows me on twitter (why aren't you following me on twitter?), but I love the fuck out of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield. And no one is more shocked by this than I. Me like Dickens? That's unpossible. But yes, it turns out it is possible, no matter how strange it may seem. You see, back in high school I didn't quite care for Dickens' writing style; in fact I quite detested it. I couldn't decipher, what struck me as, his labyrinthine prose. What was with all those words. Bet it was just cause the motherfucker got paid by the word. That had to be it—no other reason for so many words on the page.
Weened as I was on post-Hemingway snappy prose, I couldn't fathom why a writer, when constructing sentences, would choose to take a leisurely stroll in the vicinity of each action, before ultimately arriving at his destination; when it just seemed so much simpler to move directly from point A to point B. But alas, I had much to learn.
Flash forward to the present and the ridiculously long work commute that has now given me the ability to read more per week than I ever had previously. Seeing as I'm a writer, I figure I should read as much stuff from as diverse a group of writers possible. I had always known I'd have to get back to Dickens eventually: he's one of them thar classic writers, thus very important. I might not enjoy it but I'd just have to suck it up.
So, I grabbed a copy of his autobiographical novel David Copperfield and plunged in:
"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anyone else, these pages must show."
Holy shit. What a beautiful bit of phrasing. What an amazing first sentence. I was hooked. Although, before plunging into this heavy tome, I was worried that the vast scope would leave me confused—I knew I was bound to forget all the characters and the various ins and outs of the plot—never once did I have to thumb back to previous chapters to refresh my memory; never once was I dumbfounded; at every turn was I enthralled.
This was nothing like the dry slog I'd expected. In fact, not only was it eminently readable, not only was the style enchanting, but the book was a goddamn pleasure. Yes this was every bit the page-turner that all the snappy crime novels I read previously had been. Huh. I sure had this guy misjudged.
By the way, lest any of my twitter followers (why aren't you following me on twitter?) get confused as to why I wrote this post so long after finishing the novel, I should point out that the impetus came from a post in the AV Club on art that was not what the AV Clubbers expected. That's an interesting topic, I thought; I'll steal that.
I should also point out, though, a lot of art has been what I expected. As you'll know if you're following me on twitter (why aren't you following me on twitter?), I am now reading/loathing Herman Melville's masterpiece Moby Dick. The reason I started this book, aside from the desire to get all cultured and shit on classic literature, was that I thought I could've been wrong about Melville. When I was in high school, I suffered through the infinitely boring Billy Budd, and just assumed I'd never like any of this guy's writing. But now that I'm reading Moby Dick I can see how right I was.
Moral of the story: don't read anything ever.