I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m reading David Copperfield. It’s the second Charles Dickens novel I’ve read; the first being A Christmas Carol, a good many years ago. He’s a funny author. I can’t decide if I like him or not. I felt I was obliged to read him to know what all the fuss was about, especially the first time. But still now I can’t make up my mind.
Apparently David Copperfield was originally named The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery, which was written as a series and was very much autobiographical by all accounts. It was also believed to be Dickens’s favourite works, when looking back at his own literature.
Am I enjoying it? I’ve made it a third of the way through and I must say no. No entirely anyway. Laborious is an understatement. Yet there are many things I feel are quite brilliant about him.
Three positives are:
1) His use of vocabulary is very enriching, even for the time it was written. You feel your own vocabulary has widened and your brain muscle has had a work out. It’s dense and, as stated above, very much of it’s time, especially in its discourse and narrative. All the same, it’s fascinating.
2) Following on from that, one of Dickens most frequent commendations, is his social commentary of the time. It’s a wonderful window into Britain’s Victorian era, how children were treated, the social class structure, the language and discourse to people of different standing. It feels like a history lesson, as well as a dense read. I’m not selling it for you on that last comment, but for me it’s a plus.
3. His depth in thought of the characters. You feel you take some wisdom away with you. It’s rather explicit. Literature these days try to make understand different thoughts along the way, in hidden codes, etc. This is more put forward in your face. I like it. Not all the time; some guessing work would be good, but I guess its hard when writing autobiographical pieces.
Now, here are two things I dislike:
1. Villains are too contrived. There’s not enough depth to them and why they’re not very nice, foreshadowing so to speak, which enables you to forecast what is going to happen and therefore taking away the suspense or thrill. Maybe it’s just a trend of the times. Characters are more rounded in modern literature, with readers having empathy with the villain why they did something. The charming psychopath. Take the Joker in Batman. Characters characterized as goodies and baddies has become outdated; they often morph between the two.
2. While I enjoy the vocabulary being a portrait of that either, sometimes the dense description is surplus to the plot. Some is great. Too much of it causes the flow to snail pace speeds that the reader loses interest. It’s also telling too much, again enabling the reader to easily predict what is happening. Again, I think this is a victim of the time. Plots and description have evolved a few times over, with modern writers able to use description to throw writers in complete different directions, dropping silent clues.
I of course value Charles Dickens as a groundbreaking writer; very important to literature especially in reporting social commentary and raising poverty issues of the time.
However, I’m growing tired of David Copperfield and, excuse me sounding insensitive, I’m not entirely bothered what happens to him. There’s a thousand other novels I wish to read and write and I’m not getting any younger.
What do I do?