‘Take that, Dickens!’ *Doof*
Reading ‘Little Dorrit’ has been very much like the experience of running a marathon. I don’t mean the kind of marathon run by people who possess more technical kit than items of normal clothing and race every weekend for kicks. I’m talking about the kind run by unfit, charity runners shuffling through pain both physical and psychological, not to mention the boredom, their faces at first pinched, then as the hours roll by, slack and slobbering, who get overtaken by wombles. And men with one leg. Yes, ‘Little Dorrit’ was that torturous, and I speak from experience.
Much as I’d like to, I can’t totally blame Dickens. The plot of the novel was meant to be frustratingly stagnant, with the bureaucratic cement of the circumlocution office seeming to bog down all of the characters by direct or indirect means. Imprisonment is the key theme, and I felt trapped, even as a reader. However, the toil was magnified by my extensive and haphazard poly-reading. I had so many books half-read that I wasn’t making headway with any of them.
Initially, I made good progress with ‘Little Dorrit’ by listening to the novel on audio-book loaned from the library, but the children soon tired of me inflicting random sections of the novel on them for extended periods, so I didn’t renew it. I continued with the paperback, but with so many other novels on the go, I only picked it up sporadically, and then tedium set in. With the end of the year drawing closer, I wanted to clear the decks, so I prioritised ‘Little D’ and after a couple of weeks of intensive page-turning I finally made it to the end – woohoo!
What I’ve learnt from this experience is that I need to drastically simplify my poly-reading. In the New year, I’ve decided to only have one heavyweight going at a time. I’ll take turns between Dickens, volumes of Proust and the bigger tomes on the Guardian’s 100 greatest novels – (Moby Dick, Don Quixote, Clarissa, etc…) but I’ll complete one before I’m allowed to embark on the next.
I’m still reading David Foster Wallace’s ‘Infinite Jest’ in regular bite-size chunks, and that’s so huge it’ll take me forever at this rate. However, it’s so engaging, I know it’ll keep me hooked in for my regular installments. I’ll have a new book group book every month, and I’ll also allow myself to choose one other novel or play to add into the mix – whatever takes my fancy. That means that in theory I’ll only ever have four books ‘live’ at any one time, which I think even I can handle!
In the meantime, I am so joyous to be able to boot – I mean *cough* place ‘Little Dorrit’ back on the shelf to collect dust, undisturbed until the end of time.