Friday, October 25, 2013

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: The Pickwick Papers

If you haven't been following along, and who can blame you, I've been reading The Pickwick Papers. I had a rather bad experience with Tale of Two Cities in high school and have shunned Dickens ever since, until this year. Overall the book was enjoyable and a lot less annoying than Tale. My husband was kind enough to act as circulation manage and doled out installments much as someone in the 19th century would have read the book although in 6 months rather than 2 years.

The book consists of the Pickwick Club heading out and exploring the world for the purposes of research. Although this trope fades rather quickly and poor Mr. Pickwick becomes embroiled in a lawsuit with his landlady.  The travels do provide an opportunity to see what politics, the law, prison and travel in general was like in 19th century Britain. Spoiler alert, the law and politics are actually significantly worse than now.

I think the lasting impact of the book is that it has spurred me to give other authors a second chance and to give authors I had a bias against for no reason a chance. I have Nana by Balzac sitting on my to-be-read stack now as well. In college, Balzac was the only 19th century author I didn't like, well I didn't like Germinal. However, I'm giving him a second chance as well. It only seems fair. 

What is The Cephalopod Coffeehouse? It's a blog hop book club. Check out what other bloggers have been reading this month.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Review The Pickwick Papers Chapters 49-57

All's well that ends well. These 2 installments give us a ghost story, funeral and the wrapping up of all loose ends. Mr. Pickwick could into the marriage fixing business with 2/3 of his companions married by the end of the book. Poor Mr. Tupman.

Dickens does a good job of not forgetting any of the characters we've come to know throughout the book so no questions are left unanswered. I have to admit I do like that. Despite my love of the modern novel it is nice to have everything wrapped up rather neatly every once in awhile.

I've joined the Cephalopod Coffeehouse this month so I'll post a full review of the book on the 25th. Thank you for going on this journey with me.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Pickwick Papers Chapters 49-57

Sorry I've been lax. I'll do a review of all 8 chapters soon. Now you can get reading, too.

Dear valued subscribers,

Enclosed, please find chapters 49-51 of Mr. Dickens's Pickwick Papers.  The next and final installment should arrive by September 30th. 

Best regards,
A.B. Ysmal

Dear valued subscribers,

Enclosed, please find chapters 52-57 of Mr. Dickens's Pickwick Papers.  With this installment, the story concludes.  If you have enjoyed the story, we would be happy to transfer your subscription to another book of Mr. Dickens: Oliver Twist.  Upgrade now to Industrial Age status and we'll send you all back issues plus, of course, a free tote bag.  But that's not all!  Telegraph now and we'll give you a cloth bound copy of Pickwick Papers, a second tote bag and a complete set of Ginsu knives absolutely free (plus S&H). 

It has been our pleasure to serve.

God Save the Queen,
A.B. Ysmal, OBE
I guess helping the Queen move gets you an OBE.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Review Pickwick Papers Chapters 46-48

First some housekeeping -

Dear valued subscribers,

Enclosed, please find chapters 46-48 of Mr. Dickens's Pickwick Papers.  The next installment should arrive by September 21st, to include chapters 49-51.

Best regards,

A.B. Ysmal
Hard to believe only 2 installments left. At least that's what I'm assuming since I have the advantage of the space-time continuum. I've been listening to quite a few of The Dead Authors Podcasts recently which seem to fit in with this whole theme of reading Dickens as if I'd subscribed to it. I've enjoyed all I've listened to but was particularly impressed with the Gore Vidal one.

Victorian Web

Anyway, back to Pickwick. In this installment Mrs. Bardell goes for a pleasant tea with friends. While at it her lawyers arrive on most urgent business and carry her off. Unfortunately for Mrs. Bardell the most urgent business was their fees. Since Mr. Pickwick hasn't paid them it fell to Mrs. Bardell to and she is thrown in the debtor's prison Mr. Pickwick is currently in.

Sam, being the smartest one in the book aside from the lawyers, immediately sends Job to Mr. Pickwick's lawyers to inform them of the development. The lawyer arrives the next morning to convince him to pay his fees and get both him and Mrs. Bardell out of debtor's prison. Mr. Pickwick is unconvinced until Mr. Winkle arrives with his new bride, Arabella Allen Winkle, and charges Mr. Pickwick with convincing his bride's brother that the marriage is a good one.

Turns out Mr. Allen had been hoping his sister would marry Mr. Sawyer so they could both have her money. But Sam Weller and Mr. Pickwick prevail in convincing them Mr. Winkle is a worth choice with the help of Mr. Allen's aunt. The installment ends as we're about the hear another story this time by a friend of Tom Smart's.

Part of me is happy the lawyer's fees will not hurt Mr. Pickwick and part of me wishes the lawyers would just land everyone in this book in debtor's prison and be done with it. However, with 2 installments to go, I'll continue to lean more in the first camp.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Other books I gave a 2nd chance - The Drowned World - J.G. Ballard

Perhaps the best thing that me giving Dickens a 2nd chance has brought about is that I've given a couple of other authors a 2nd chance.

Next up - J. G. Ballard

This isn't really giving Ballard a 2nd chance. I've never tried to read him before but I had lumped him in with a group of writers that for some reason I am disdainful of even though they influenced other writers that I like. Also in this group are William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Robbins. Seeing this list makes me realize how unfair it was to lump Ballard in with these authors. Probably something to do with time period and somehow his name in and of itself fits in.

I've given Vonnegut a 2nd chance to no avail. Tom Robbins has more chances than he deserved. Eventually I'll get to Burroughs. 

As for Ballard, he has been a huge influence on my current favorite living author*, Will Self. It seemed worthwhile to attempt to overcome my unfounded bias and give him a chance. So I read The Drowned World.


It's a post apocalyptic science fiction novel set in a world that has been flooded in the aftermath of the polar ice caps melting. It explores how a team that is documenting the changes to the earth as well as scavengers are dealing with this change. The main characters seem to embrace the reversion to primordial humanity, while others try to return to impose civilized society and still others are just in it for what they can get as if that has value.

While I can summarize the action, it's difficult to summarize the atmosphere or feeling the book created. It's one of those books where I felt like I was still in it even when not reading. I could smell the book in my clothes. Which was actually a pleasant change from the smell of 2666 which had lingered for a month.

I found myself wanting to revert to the Triassic period with the main characters even while being terrified of that idea. I'm sure the very wet Vermont spring and summer influenced my reading of this book.

It is also one of those books I don't want to talk about too much for fear it will dissipate or change the experience I had reading it. I often feel that way after I've read a Will Self book as well.

I can't recommend it enough and I'm looking forward to reading more by J.G. Ballard. I probably just won't want to talk about it too much.

You can read Will Self's new intro to the book for the Folio Society edition here.

*Favorite Living Author metric used to figure out which living author(s) I will attempt to buy as soon as their books come out. Authors who write memoirs about their daddy issues tend to get disqualified from this list especially if said memoir comes out after a couple of mediocre books.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Other books I gave a 2nd chance - Strong Poison - Dorothy L. Sayers

Perhaps the best thing that me giving Dickens a 2nd chance has brought about is that I've given a couple of other authors a 2nd chance.

First up - Dorothy L. Sayers.

Growing up I was a huge Nancy Drew fan and then moved on to Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. I received Murder Ink and Murderess Ink as gifts and avidly read all the essays in it. There were Harriet Vane paper dolls in it that I loved as well as the essays on Harriet and Lord Peter Wimsey. So I attempted to read Busman's Holiday but to no avail. I found it dreadfully dull at the time. I've always felt a little bad about it because the books I loved recommended them so highly and I love murder mystery books.

Since then I've ready hard boiled detective novels. Fell in love with Hammett and Chandler. Moved on to Jim Thompson and James M. Cain. And then of course ending with Patricia Highsmith. Since then I've gone back to other classics I hadn't read especially Rex Stout. It seemed time to return to classic British mystery. So I gave Sayers a 2nd chance this summer.

I am glad I did. Well written, witty and I wasn't entirely certain who did it too early on. Frankly, a nice step up from Agatha Christie that perhaps my 13 year old mind was unable to appreciate at the time.

The book starts out with Lord Peter Wimsey attending the trial of Harriet Vane for the murder of her lover. Wimsey and Vane have not met before. Wimsey decided she didn't do it and sets out to find the real killer. He proposes to Vane along the way which she turns down. I think it was the right decision. You don't really want to marry someone who is your rescuer, at least not right away.

Wimsey has relatives who are not as scary as Bertie Wooster's although he does have a Jeeves like butler. He also has an agency of excellent women who help him with his cases.

Probably most of all I enjoyed the banter between Wimsey and Vane, so I will probably read all of their books first before going back to the books without Harriet Vane.

As a side note, the Winn books that taught me what a poseur James Bond was. No self respecting spy would drive a Aston Martin (known for breaking down), carry a Walther PPK (too bulky and frequently misfires) or drink vodka martinis (hopefully you don't need me to explain this). All of this led me to develop a theory that James Bond was actually a KGB agent, which I think George Smiley would agree with, but I won't go into it here.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Pickwick Papers Chapters 43-45 with Review

Labor Day Weekend no new installment of Pickwick Papers so I wrote a note to Mr. Ysmal -
Dear Mr. Ysmal,

Can you please inform us when the next installment of our subscription to The Pickwick Papers will arrive? I'm afraid that you and your staff may have been partaking of too much Worcester Sauce.

Best regards,

Bentobox Moldyspore
He was kind enough to reply -

Dear Mrs. Moldyspore,
I offer my humblest apologies for the delay in bringing you the latest installment of Mr. Dickens's Pickwick Papers.  We were unexpectedly enlisted to help with Queen Vicki's big move into Buckingham Palace.  If only there were some better system for finding and assembling affordable furniture.  We hear the Swedes are cooking up an idea.  Anytime this century would be great, Ingvar!

Enclosed, please find chapters 43-45.  The next delivery should arrive by September 10th, to include chapters 46-48. 

Best regards,
A.B. Ysmal
Victorian Web

I started reading as soon as I received the installment. Mr. Pickwick is still in debtor's prison. Sam Weller hatches up a scheme with his dear old Pa and gets himself put into debtor's prison as well so he can be close to Mr. Pickwick.

Sam Weller's family comes to visit him in prison along with his step mother's preacher. Certainly get the feeling that Dickens was not fond of religion. 

The trio of Pickwickian Idiots arrive for a visit. Mr. Winkle is a little put out that Sam is now in prison as he was counting on his help for a certain mission.

It's hard to believe there's only about 200 pages left. Since this isn't a post modern novel I'm doubtful that the last scene will contain Mr. Pickwick still in prison but we shall see.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Review Pickwick Papers Chapters 37-42

A surprisingly large amount of things to cover.  Mr. Pickwick sends Sam Weller to find Mr. Winkle and tell him to stop being a coward. In turn Mr. Winkle finds Miss Allen to prevent her from marrying one of those no good medical students. Well, it's not as noble as that it's really Mr. Winkle who wants to marry Miss Allen.
Mr. Pickwick insists on helping Mr. Winkle. And then we change to Mr. Pickwick going to debtors prison. Quite a place to say the least. I sort of admire Mr. Pickwick for taking a stand and refusing to pay the money from the frivolous lawsuit of Mrs. Bardell. I also realize that this gives Dickens to give us a chance to see how horrible debtor's prison in. However, I also can't help but agree with Sam Weller and view this whole thing as being a little ridiculous and unnecessary at least for Mr.Pickwick.

Overall nice plot movement. I forgot to tell you the most important thing, Mr. Jingle has shown up once again to take advantage of Mr. Pickwick. Well Mr. Pickwick let's himself be taken advantage of.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pickwick Papers Chapters 40-42

I will do a double update. I'm a little anxious for Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Winkle.

Dear valued subscribers,

Enclosed, please find chapters 40-42 of Mr. Dickens's Pickwick Papers.  Your next issue should arrive on August 30th, to include chapters 43-45.

God Save the Queen.  They say she's a healthy one, may be with us for a while.

Best regards,

A.B. Ysmal

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pickwick Papers Chapters 37-39

Yay, Queen Victoria takes the throne. Doesn't make up for the subscription being late though.

Dear valued subscribers,

Enclosed, please find chapters 37-39 of Mr. Dickens's Pickwick Papers.  Your next issue should arrive on August 20th, to include chapters 40-42. 

We're hoping future correspondence will be enhanced by a contraption recently patented by one of your people, a Mr. Morse.

God Save Our New Queen,
A.B. Ysmal

Friday, August 9, 2013

Review Pickwick Papers Chapters 34-36

Victorian Web

We start off with the trail of Pickwick vs. Bardell. A travesty of justice to be sure. Mr. Pickwick refuses to pay the fine and travels down to Bath to avoid the law. Bath of course being where all fashionable people have gone at least since Jane Austen's time. We also get the real story of the founding of Bath.

Thinking about Jane Austen while reading the Bath chapters, it seemed high time to try to place Dickens within the timeline of other authors I've read. I admire and like the film Citizen Kane quite a bit and I know part of the reason is that I know how important it was in film history because of the innovations in cinematography it brought. So I thought maybe if I placed Dickens in history I would appreciate him more and stop wishing I was reading Balzac or Twain.

This didn't work. He was a contemporary of Balzac who published two of his big novels before Pickwick Papers came out. He was influenced by Fielding and Sterne. I prefer both over Dickens. I am not disliking the book. I think it is good that I'm reading it in small bits but I like it. I think I'm just failing to see why Dickens is considered a literary giant. Well except for that whole inventing modern Christmas thing.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 34-36

Finally my favorite city is born.

Well, it probably didn't look like that at the time of the Pickwick Papers.

Dear valued subscribers,

Enclosed, please find chapters 34-36 of Mr. Dickens's Pickwick Papers.  Your next issue should arrive on August 10th, to include chapters 37-39. 

We hear you've got a new city.  Chicago, it's called?  Sausage enthusiasts rejoice!

Best regards,
A.B. Ysmal

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Review Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 32 and 33

The chapter where Mr. Pickwick goes to visit the medical students to take some punch and hear some tales. Followed by the chapter where Sam Weller sends a valentine, visits his father and goes to a temperance meeting. And helps his father exact vengeance on Rev. Stiggins, who is not very sober. This mostly just a prelude to the trial that's coming up hopefully next installment.

I do think this is the way to read at least The Pickwick Papers, if not all of Dickens. It gives me time in between to read other things, knit a sweater and go on vacation. I think I'd begin to view the book as tedious if I were reading straight through.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pickwick Papers Vol 1 Chapters 32 and 33

Well at least now we know why it's taking so long to get installments and why we're only getting 2 chapters this time.

Dear valued subscribers,

Enclosed, please find chapters 32 and 33 of Mr. Dickens's Pickwick Papers.  Your next issue should arrive on August 1st, to include chapters 34-36.  You may be interested in another Dickens serial just released, a charming, uplifting tale entitled Oliver Twist.

Best regards,
A.B. Ysmal

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review of Pickwick Papers Vol 1 Chapters 29-31

Victorian Web
 This installment involved 3 distinct stories.

The first is the goblin story, which was very much like A Christmas Carol. Well except about a poor sexton rather than a rich man and the ending is a little strangers.

The second - Mr. Pickwick goes skating but not before he berates Mr. Winkle for being a fraud. Once again Mr. Winkle has pretended to be able to do something he can't. Before this takes place we meet a couple of medical students. I think Dickens may have thought less of medical students than he did lawyers which is saying something.

The third - After he and all of his friends are served with subpoenas, Mr. Pickwick visits his lawyers and we meet the lead lawyer in the case who promptly shuttles everything to the junior lawyer.

All in all, keeping the story moving. Some of the installments seem a little strange to me since I would have thought they'd be a little more cohesive but that's not always the case.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 29-31

 A very belated arrival to the next installment.

Dear valued subscribers,

With humblest apologies for the late delivery, enclosed please find chapters 29-31 of Mr. Dickens's Pickwick Papers.  Unfortunately, wagon troubles on a recent westward holiday have been a preoccupation.  Your next issue should arrive on July 23rd, to include chapters 32 and 33.

We are most impressed by your newest state, a magical land called Michigan.  A genius repairman in Marquette rescued our journey from irreparable disaster.

Best regards,
A.B. Ysmal

Monday, July 1, 2013

Review Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 27-28

It's Christmas time. And really who better to render Victorian Christmas better than Dickens?

via Victorian Web

Two quick chapters for this installment that promises the tale of goblins in the next. The first chapter Mr. Weller pays his filial duty to his pa and gives him some advice about the dubious minister his mother-in-law (step mother to you and me) has taken up with.

The second chapter brings us to Mr. Wardle's with a wedding and Christmas festivities. Love is in the air everywhere. And Sam Weller attempts to reform Joe, Mr. Wardle's sleepy and gluttonous servant.

Overall I was rather reminded of the general feeling of a Doctor Who Christmas special. Which is not a bad thing during the rather wet and humid summer we're currently having.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 27-28

 I thought Mr. Ysmal's missives deserved an illustration as well.

Dear valued subscribers,

Enclosed, please find chapters 27 and 28 of Mr. Dickens's Pickwick Paper.  Your next issue should arrive on July 4th, to include chapters 29-31.

We're told that's a bank holiday in your parts/time stream so you might expect some delay.

Congratulations on your new President (our time stream, your country - it's all so confusing!).  We hear good things about Mr. Van Buren.

Best regards,

A.B. Ysmal

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Review Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 21-26

Victorian Web
This section starts off where our last one left off with the old man telling the story of Heyling. But soon, well sort of soon resumes the pursuit of Mr. Jinks. There's a rather unfortunate matter of Mr. Pickwick going into the wrong room at the inn and surprising unwittingly the intended of the rather kind gentleman he'd had dinner with that night.

This of course leads to another court case which fortunately ends well with a hot lead on Mr. Jinks.

Victorian Web
Not to mention Mr. Weller gets his revenge to some degree as well. Everyone returns to London and Mr. Weller pays a visit to Mrs. Bardell to discover how serious she might be about this lawsuit.

I'm finding the additional stories a little tiring but the main action is rather interesting. Mr. Weller is developing into a much sneakier and satisfying character. I hope he can rescue Mr. Pickwick from his predicament with Mrs. Bardell.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pickwick Papers Vol 1 Chapters 24-26

The next installment arrived before I'd finished the last. The dangers of picking up Umberto Eco. So a double review will arrive shortly but in the mean time the missives evolve.

Dear valued subscribers:
Enclosed, please find chapter 24-26 of Mr. Dickens's Pickwick Papers.  Just spent the day with Dear Old Dad and he was telling me about a chum of his - fellow named Darwin - who just got back from a magnificent seafaring adventure.  Dad was hoping I could set the man up with a publisher...
Your next issue should arrive on June 25th, to include chapters 27 and 28.
Best regards,
A.B. Ysmal

Friday, June 7, 2013

Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 21-23

Dear valued subscribers:
Enclosed, please find chapters 21-23 of Mr. Dickens's Pickwick Papers.  Humblest apologies for the delay.  Our printer is located in Verona and delivery was delayed by a health quarantine in Mantua. 
Your next issue should arrive on June 16th, to include chapters 24-26.
Best regards,
A.B. Ysmal
Mr. Ysmal has been helping out with a production of Romeo and Juliet, hence the delay in the next installment. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Review Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 18-20

Victorian Web
So, Mrs. Bardell, disappointed that Mr. Pickwick took on Sam Weller instead of proposing to her is suing Mr. Pickwick for misleading her. Sam Weller proves his worth in the lawyer's office by extricating Mr Pickwick before he gets hit with too many other lawsuits. It's interesting to see that even Victorian London had ambulance chaser lawyers.

While consoling Mr. Pickwick they run into Sam Weller's father who has a lead on Mr. Jingle. Torn between seeing his lawyer and chasing after Mr. Jingle, Mr. Pickwick ends up drinking and telling stories with his lawyer's clerk. And this installment instead of ending with a story, ends with someone about to tell a story about Gray's Inn (where all the solictors are in London).

A good installment. I enjoyed the scene at the lawyers the most. Lots of foreshadowing in the clerk and lawyer's treatment of poor fellow who came in to settle his lawsuit only to find that a few other had been added and thus he would need far more money to end it. Hopefully Sam can help keep him out of trouble.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 18-20

We've gotten almost 10" in that past 72 hours. Relieved to see Mr. Ysmal has other modes of transport.
Dear valued subscribers:

Our wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey department informs us that the best means of getting this issue to you is by canoe.  Please tip your local tribesmen generously for their efforts.  Included with this month's issue (chapters 18-20 of Mr. Dickens's Pickwick Papers) are complimentary commemorative ponchos and, of course, tote bags.

Your next issue should arrive on June 3rd, to include chapters 21-23.
Best regards,
A.B. Ysmal

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 15-17

This installment begins with the Pickwickians almost getting into fisticuffs over costumes for a fancy dress party put on by Mrs. Leo Hunter, recounts the duping of Messr. Weller and Pickwick by Mr. Jingle and servant and ends with Mr. Pickwick telling the tale of The Parish Clerk. The tale could have easily happened to any one of the Pickwickians.

To be honest the clueslessness of the main characters are beginning to wear on me a little. I had had hopes for Sam Weller but he appears to be more Sancho Panza than Jeeves.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 15-17

Congratulations to Mr. Ysmal! I, too, was married in a nonconformist church. Of course, this does make me a little sad for Mrs. Bardell who thought Mr. Pickwick was going to propose.

Dear valued subscribers:

I drop this off on my way to be wed in a nonconformist chapel - legal in Britain now, you know.  Enclosed please find chapters 15-17 of Mr. Dickens's Pickwick Papers.  The next issue should arrive on May 25th, to include chapters 18-20.
Best regards,
A.B. Ysmal

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Review Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 12-14

After letting his landlady think he was going to ask her to marry him but instead actually hired Sam Weller to be his valet, Mr. Pickwick and crew head out to Eatanswill for the election.

The beginning chapter of this saga is a little like something out of Gulliver's Travels.  Dickens explains the run up to the election rather like Gulliver entering a new land. I was raised in the Chicago area and thus am familiar with Chicago election jokes. This chapter teaches Chicago a couple of lessons in how to run an election to ensure your candidate wins. Although no one dead seems to be voting in this election.

This installment ends with two of the Pickwickians hearing the Bagman's Tale which is the tale of a man stopping in a Public House for the night and after a few too many cups of punch is helped by a talking chair to win a widow's heart. Well at least that's what the Bagman's uncle says.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 12-14

Short post for this installment.

Dear valued subscribers:
Enclosed please find chapters 12-14 of Mr. Dickens's Pickwick Papers.  The next issue is expected to arrive on May 16th and should include chapters 15-17.  Ever improving rail service should help to ensure timely delivery.  Should.
Best regards,
A.B. Ysmal

For some reason I keep thinking installments are set to arrive 2 days after they do. Must be the slow rail service to Vermont.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Review Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 9-11

Most of this installment concerned the chase to stop Mr. Jingle from running off with Rachael Wardle. I'm fairly certain Mr. Jingle was hoping to be paid off the whole time however, Miss Wardle seemed disappointed.

Once they returned to Dingley Dell they discovered that Mr. Tupman had already left, so the remaining Pickwickians left to find him. Before he leaves, Mr. Pickwick is given a story about a mad man by the rector. Chapter 11 ends with this story that Mr. Pickwick decides to read on a sleepless night. The book so far has had about 3 of these stories. As if Dickens liked the stories but realized they couldn't quite be integrated into a novel so he has other characters tell or read the stories. Or it could be more a matter of Dickens being paid by the word.

This installment also introduces Sam Weller who I know from what I've read about the book caused subscriptions to increase once he was introduced. He plays a smallish part in this installment but I know this isn't the last we'll see of him.

I guess there was a lot in these chapters. It also relates the story of a stone that Mr. Pickwick finds with indecipherable markings. Mr. Pickwick takes it for something from ancient times and most scholars agree with him to spite other scholars who do not think it's so ancient.

Overall fun stories, good read still. Looking forward to the next installment and to see if another state has joined the union. Although since subscriptions go from 1,000 for the first installment to 40,000 for the last, I think Mr. Johansson is getting a little busier.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pickwick Papers Vol 1 Chapters 9-11

Latest installment. I received it yesterday but thought I'd post my review of the last one first. 

Dear valued subscribers:
Enclosed, please find the latest installment of Mr. Dickens's Pickwick Papers: chapters 9-11.  The next issue is expected to arrive on May 7th and should include chapters 12-14.
There have been very exciting developments in Mr. Johansson's ongoing adventures.  He enjoyed the Wisconsin trip so much that he has become a bit of a statehood party devotee.  Undeterred by his recent blindness, he took off for Arkansas this past month to help them celebrate their newly attained status.  Miracle of miracles, the hot springs of the Ozarks have restored his sight!  As such, the timely delivery of upcoming Pickwick installments has become more likely.
Best regards and happy reading,
A.B. Ysmal
I think it's quite interesting to discover the number of states that became states during the publication of this novel.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Review Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 6-8

This installment involved stubborn horses, the charming maidens of the Wardle family, intrigue and cricket. Frankly this book does nothing to dissuade me that cricket isn't all about the drinking salmon.

The Pickwickians set off for Dingley Dell to visit the Wardle family. While there they hook back up with the scoundrel Mr. Jingle and attend a cricket match, later scandalizing the ladies when they arrive home late and very drunk, er, I mean suffering from the effects of the salmon. Mr. Jingle sets out to steal the heart of the spinster Rachel Wardle from Mr. Tupman.

It did strike me as I reading the installment that the Pickwickians could use a Jeeves to keep them out of the trouble. Although one Bertie Wooster is probably enough to handle, I'm sure Jeeves could handle three Pickwickians.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Review Pickwick Papers Vol.1 Chapters 3-5

I have to admit I'm not really sure how useful it is to review each installment. The story is ongoing. I'm glad to see that characters aren't just going to disappear (looking at you Mr. Jingle) and will thus continue to cause mayhem, it is to be hoped, for our dear Pickwickians.

We get treated to a rather sad story by a friend of Mr. Jingle's who appears in a few scenes. Mr. Pickwick collects stories and is eager to hear the sad tale.

Mr. Wardle and his family is introduced at the climax of rather funny scene that talks about the foolishness of a man chasing his hat.

Overall, I'm still enjoying it. I'm still sort of waiting to go through the whole rhythm of the story to settle into when each new installment appears.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 6-8

Realized that I am not nearly as prompt as Mr. Ysmal. Of course I did spend some time reminding Mr. Ysmal that it was the 19th. I owe you a review of chapters 3-5. It will be coming soon, I promise. For now here's the intro for the next installment.

Dear valued subscribers:
Enclosed, please find the latest installment of Mr. Dickens's Pickwick Papers: chapters 6-8.  The next issue will arrive on April 28th and is expected to include chapters 9-11.
Thank you for the many letters of concern we have received inquiring of Olaf Johansson's health and well-being.  Our esteemed distributor recovered from Wisconsapalooza only to go blind watching the recent solar eclipse.  We advised him to use caution but, as the old saying goes, keeping a Swede from his telescope during a solar eclipse is like...  well, you know the rest.

Best regards and happy reading,
A.B. Ysmal

I had no idea the Swedes were so fond of telescopes.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 3-5

Well I'll say at least Mr. Ysmal is prompt.

Dear valued subscribers:
We are delighted to bring you the next section of The Pickwick Papers from Charles Dickens.  He's huge in Bulgaria from what we understand.  Enclosed, please find chapters 3-5.
You'll also be relieved to know that we have hired a new distributor for your area: Mr. Olaf Johansson.  However, we already have some concerns.  Mr. Johansson recently went off on a cheese, sausage and beer bender to celebrate Wisconsin's newly established statehood.  Assuming he sobers up in time, you should receive the next installment - chapters 6-8 - on April 19th.
Best regards,
A.B. Ysmal
Managing Editor

Although I'm not sure why anyone in Vermont would be celebrating Wisconsin's statehood. A review of chapters 3-5 will appear once I've read them.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Review Pickwick Papers Vol. 1 Chapters 1-2

Two things struck me as I was reading the first 2 chapters.

1. How long has the amiable idiot narrative been around? Is this an early example? My favorite one is Bouvard et P├ęcuchet by Gustave Flaubert. Although the Pickwick Club does have a pleasant grouping of idiots.

2. I kept coming back to all the current debate about watching tv one episode at a time or overdosing and watching all the episodes of a season in one go. Were there groups in the Victorian era who waited until all the installments were in to begin reading the book? Did they cover their ears and scream "SPOILERS" when friends who were on the installment plan began to talk about the book? Or in thinking about comic books were there people pestering Charles Dickens for if and when the installments would be published as a trade? Sometimes debates that we think are modern have been around for a lot longer than we expect.

Back to the book itself. The first chapter is an introduction to the Pickwick Club and it's new found purpose of exploring places around London and reporting back to the club on various matters. The second chapter takes the main group to Rochester. On the way they fall in with a shady character who gets one of their members into serious trouble and of course the chapter ends with a nice cliffhanger.

So far so good. Amiable idiots are pleasant, we'll have to see if they become grating. It is early days after all but I'm looking forward to the next installment which I've already asked Mr. Ysmal to send on or around April 10.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Pickwick, Vol. I Chapters 1-2

Received this this morning. I feel fairly certain that my former profession is being made fun of. I'll post a review of Chapters 1-2 once read. 
Dear valued subscriber,

We hope you will enjoy the work enclosed: the first two chapters of The Pickwick Papers, a novel by a promising young writer named Charles Dickens (Chazzy D to his homies at the local pub).

Under normal circumstances, you would not receive the next Pickwick installment for another month hence. However, if you respond now, within the next 30 minutes through this special, one-time, available-only-by-telegram offer, you will receive chapters 3-5 on April 10th, give or take.

We apologize for any delays you may experience in the coming weeks. Our local distributor in your area recently ran off with some chap named David Crockett to an exotic land of mystery called Texas. His most recent postcard was from a sketchy looking resort known as The Alamo. We fear the worst. Efforts to find a temporarily replacement are well underway but, as yet, unsuccessful.

Best regards,
Aaron B. Ysmal, MBE Managing Editor

Sunday, March 31, 2013

How to Create a Monster aka Giving Dickens a Second Chance

It's been awhile. Things had gotten a bit dusty but new year, new project.

I read Tale of Two Cities in high school and absolutely loathe it. As a result, for a long time I discounted a great deal of 19th century literature as overly dramatic, not very good sop. However, several classes I took in college made me think that at least 19th century literature in France wasn't too shabby. Then I read some British 19th century authors - Austen, Eliot, etc. and noticed I had friends I like and respect who like Dickens. So, for a while now I've been feeling I should give Dickens another try. A friend of mine suggested that we read The Pickwick Papers and maybe we could even convince our respective partners to dole out chapters of it was it was serialized when it was first published. I asked The Husband if he'd be willing to create a schedule and that's when the monster was created -

1. I forwarded him the schedule
2. I said we wanted to read it in 6 months rather than 20. He said ok as long as I blogged about this.
3. I said we wanted to start April 1
4. I was informed on the 29th that I would not be getting a complete reworked schedule because that would not take into account the Victorian mail system.
5. Today I'm told Texas may be a problem in getting installments.
6. Begin to think maybe he's played a few too many role playing games.

In theory we are starting tomorrow. Feel free to join me in giving Dickens a second chance. This is the edition we're using -

Or at least check back and see how unreliable the postal system can be, how frequent shipwrecks were, why Texas could be an issue and if I change my mind about Dickens.