Saturday, March 19, 2011

Concerning Tangents

I've been revisiting Dickens lately.  To me, picking up a Dickens novel is the mental equivalent of curling up with a cozy blanket and a cup of cocoa.  It's the comfort food of the soul.  I remember the first time I read David Copperfield, feeling from the first pages that I'd literally fallen into its world.  (It always angered me when I read reviews saying Agnes was a two-dimensional character.  You don't often meet people like her, it's true, but I have met at least one, namely my mother.  Of course, everybody knows a Mr. Micawber, a Dora, a Tommy Traddles...)

Anyway, what always makes me a little sad is the realization that, in all honesty, no one would probably publish a Dickens novel now, or they would insist on cutting it down by at least a third to cut out run-on sentences, unnecessary dialogue, pointless description, etc.  In Nicholas Nickleby, for example, in Chapter Two, he devotes six pages to a Public Meeting concerning a United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company, which (so far as I can recall) is never mentioned again in the entire novel.  Then, at the end of Chapter Five, he overturns the Coach Nicholas is traveling in simply in order to allow them to stop at an Inn where two gentlemen spend Chapter Six telling stories completely unrelated to the plot.  I always love to imagine the public of Dickens' day, reading the novel in serial form, eagerly awaiting Chapter Six to find out what happens to Nicholas, only to be met with The Baron of Grogzwig.

However, I love Nicholas Nickleby, mostly, of course, for the central plot and characters, but in part because of the weird tangents.  I find all six pages concerning the UMIHMCBPDC particularly hilarious.  How tragic, should the editors at the time have decided to hack them away.

No comments:

Post a Comment