Got an ad from Barnes & Noble via email saying, “Just Announced!… Oprah’s Latest Book Club Pick.”
Turns out it was something called A Tale of Two Cities by one Charles Dickens. I’m glad Oprah decided to help the guy out. He deserves a wider audience. I see he’s from London. Maybe I’ll look him up when I’m there at the end of the month, give him a little publicity on the blog.
This reminds me of two things:
- I still haven’t read that book. I’ve started a couple of times, but didn’t get into it, which my eldest daughter finds incredible, since it’s one of her faves. Maybe I should try again, after I get done reading Tony Blair’s book. I’m in a sweat to finish Tony’s, you know, in case I run into him over there. What if I I ran into him at Starbucks or something (hey, it’s a small country), and he asked what I thought of his book and I hadn’t read it? What a proper flat I should look. (And yes, I know my British slang needs updating. It’s not even up to Dickens’ era, being stuck in about 1810.)
- I read an interesting book review this morning, about a book titled The Other Dickens, a tale of Charles’ wife and how beastly he was to her. Which, of course, also reminded me of how I hadn’t read A Tale of Two Cities.
About that review, in the WSJ — I was struck by this bit of criticism:
There is a rather significant moment in 1849 when he insists on chloroform at the birth of Henry Dickens. A tender gesture aimed at sparing his wife pain? Ms. Nayder has other ideas: “a victory of male medical expertise over natural forces,” she decides, in which such “victory” is “compromised by the method through which it is achieved: the dissociation of mind from her body . . . and her consequent objectification.” This is sharply put, but you have a feeling that Dickens’s omitting to send out for anesthetics would have been equally culpable.
The bit about “objectification” gestures at another of Ms. Nayder’s contexts, which is her determination to give Catherine not so much a life of her own as one acceptable to the ukases of 21st-century academe. Nobody in “The Other Dickens”—remember that this is the age of Gladstone and Disraeli—does anything that is merely idiosyncratic: Having been “disempowered,” they perform “transgressive acts” that may or may not leave them in a state of “valorization.”
In other words, the author was somehow ideologically incapable of reaching the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, Dickens was, as an individual person, simply a jerk.
This got me to wondering about something else, after having watched “Frida” last night and being immersed in arguments among Mexican communists back in the 1930s: Which is more given to silly, pompous jargon — feminism or Marxism. Discuss.