We finished Little Dorrit as expected. Definitely not one of my faves, but still head and shoulders above some other literature.
Upon completion of the tale, we read the Introduction. This is a pet peeve of mine: calling these book summaries/discussions “introductions.” They don’t introduce the book; they discuss it, revealing things I don’t want to know prior to reading. Often times, they assume some sort of knowledge of the book, which–du-uh–I don’t tend to have prior to reading it! They aren’t introductions; they are afterwords, and belong at the back of the book.
Granted, it’s within my power to not read the introductions first, and that’s what I do, but still…it bugs me!
According to the Afterword, Little Dorrit, when first published, was more popular than Our Mutual Friend and Bleak House. Not so today. Personally, I’d rank Bleak House first, then Our Mutual Friend, and Little Dorrit last. Clearly I’m missing something that readers in 1855 got. That’s not surprising, but I find it interesting. What were those readers thinking? How different was their experience of those same words and ideas?
I wonder how much planning and plotting Dickens did prior to the start of serial publication (1855-1857). Did he publish each monthly installment without having written the next? It feels that way. Sometimes the story dawdles, while other times it gallops past seemingly significant parts. Two main characters die and he just blows over them in a few sentences, while he goes on and on (over and over!) about how the Circumlocution Office works hard to make sure nothing is ever achieved. What would it be like if he had written the whole thing, then gone back and revised it, the way writers do today? Would he have changed it?
I also read a number of kids’ poetry books, and Double Identity and The House on the Gulf by Margaret Peterson Haddix. I loved the Haddix books; man, can that woman plot!
I have always considered the serialization aspect of Dickens’ work to be its weakness. (Who am I to criticize?) I’m not sure if he really lost track of what he had already written, changed his mind in later episodes, or was just being paid by the word! Some of his books would definitely have benefited from editing and revision, but would they have also lost something that made them Dickens? I admit I never made it through Little Dorrit, partly due to inconsistencies and partly because I just didn’t care for her character. He certainly does better with men. I do love David Copperfield and Great Expectations.