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.