I’ve been reading the same three books for about six weeks. This is partly because I haven’t devoted as much time as I should to reading, partly because two of the books are crazy long, and partly because two of the books are dead boring. My current reads are Bleak House and Nicholas Nickelby by Charles Dickens and The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. The People of the Book is quite a good read. It’s a bit heavy with impressive words that make me roll my eyes, but a fascinating tale and a unique concept. This, however, is my consolation book. My reward for suffering through two chapters of Dickens. Have I mentioned, I hate Dickens? I know this is not my first declaration.
So why am I reading these books? Well, mostly because they are on my list. The list started when I was at university doing a double major in two unrelated fields taking over 20 hours a semester and raising a baby. I didn’t have the time to take extra literature electives, so instead, I went to the bookstore and wrote down the reading lists for classes I felt like I should be taking. The list eventually became a monster with over 300 books that I hope to read before I die. I’ll talk about my list obsession another time. But Dickens made, I believe, four appearances on the list. For some reason, I feel like I must read these books. I can’t bring myself to quit. There must be something important I’m supposed to learn from this convoluted nonsense. He holds such an important place in the English literature canon. I feel like it would be akin to studying physics without reading anything about Newton. As a student of the written word, I feel obligated to struggle through it, no matter how boring.
I find his books to be exceedingly boring. I can read page after page and not remember anything. Not because I’m distracted, but because I really just don’t care. I’m not that interested in Victorian literature in general, but at least other authors are able to make me feel something for their characters. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that each of his novels has about a million ridiculously named characters, some of whom appear once and then don’t show up again for 600 pages with no reminder or explanation of who the hell they are. Maybe it’s because he seems to take leisurely diversion onto some annoyingly quaint tangent that seems to drag on over 20 pages. For some reason, I just can’t seem to give a damn about what he has to say. I get no enjoyment out of his books. I must be sick. There’s got to be something wrong with me.
David Copperfield is, I hope, the last Dickens novel on my list. I’ve also read Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, neither of which I really enjoyed. Perhaps I would glean more from these novels if I was reading them in the analytic context of a college class. But as something to read before bed, all I can say is that they do a good job of putting me to sleep. I received the UK edition of Deathly Hallows for Christmas, and I’ve been waiting until I finished one of my books to read it as a reward. I’ve only got 200 pages left on Nickelby. Only Rowling can save me from this misery.