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June 07, 2021


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I opted to listen to LD, and am doing so only when I go for walks or am doing stuff around the house, so I am making my way through it sloooowly.

I agree it’s painful. I am really curious about your thoughts about Tattycoram. (I’m only just past the chapter in which Clennam and Meagles visit Miss M and T declines to return home.) I'm pretty sure the novel is asking us to straightforwardly side with Clennam and Meagles, but both times I’ve read it (last time was in college, 30 years ago) I can’t help seeing Meagles as a devastating portrait of self-deluded do-gooding. His instructions to her to keep counting sound to me like a jarringly modern version of some parenting manual’s rote instructions for ‘time outs.' There’s a LOT I don’t remember (all those plot twists and turns that I always forget in Dickens as soon as I finish), but I do remember (or I think I do?) Pet’s fate and the way Tatty repents and replaces her, and how it struck me as unconvincing way back when. And I can't wait for the chapter from Miss Wade's pov--another instance of Dickens perhaps unintentionally winning my sympathy when he's not entirely trying to solicit it!

I’ve also been struck by the way LD’s goodness gets ratcheted up to unbearable levels… Bleak House’s Esther S seems more interesting, b/c so much more ambivalent. She shows the costs—the difficulty of inhabiting this role—so much more clearly. With LD, her idiot dad and awful sibs and their failures to appreciate her just seem too much—the self-pity I see Dickens vicariously enjoying just makes me cringe.

Esther’s case also keeps suggesting itself to me as a revision of Tattycoram’s…both orphans ‘rescued’ from bleak fates by well-meaning folk—but Jarndyce educates Esther for a middle-class life (b/c of her parentage? But she’s ‘illegitimate’) while Tatty is never (apparently) educated or expected to be more than a servant (like Charley, who’s quite content to be Esther’s maid, and happily commodifies herself when Jarndyce tells her to present herself to Esther as a present, a scene that always makes me shudder).

And just in general, I’m struck by all the echoes and parallels between this set of characters and those in other Dickens novels. So I’m definitely enjoying the process of listening to it overall, though it’s a critical kind of enjoyment, I guess :)

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