Posted by: erichosemann | December 10, 2009

David Copperfield

One book I neglected to mention in my “What I’m reading” blog is Dickens’ David Copperfield. I’m surprised I forgot about it, considering how much I’ve been enjoying it.  I must have been on another tunnel vision tear.

I’m not much of a fan of contemporary literature, at least for right now.  What I have read, which amounts to little more than a few pages of David Foster Wallace, and all of Cynthia Ozick’s Heir to the Glimmering World, made me feel a little empty inside, though I much preferred Ozick to Wallace.  I don’t know if I’ll ever prefer Wallace.  His writing feels force to me.  I pick up something of his and try to read it, but it fails to hold me.  Or I fail to comprehend it.  Is there something wrong with me that I can’t keep up with him?  Of course there is.

Ozick’s Heir to the Glimmering World was wonderful, but still kind of empty.  It ended with a sigh.  Not that it should have ended with an explosion, but the world it evoked for me was a drab and sad world, which is kind of what Ozick meant to do by setting it in the middle of the Depression.  I’m not saying that evoking a drab and sad world is a bad thing to do, rather what I mean is that in so doing Ozick reminded me of some meta-themes I think I’ve detected in some contemporary art: no heroes; no victories; no struggles and thus no possibilities of triumph; the pretense that portraying all of these lacks as omnipresent is somehow more realistic than portraying them as transient.  I’m not a “march to victory” kind of guy, but I enjoy fiction that has those things in some measure other than overdose.  I’m sure I’m missing something; I read the book more than a year ago, and have thought little about it until now.  There was something pleasing to me about the way the book ended; perhaps it was the transformation of the main characters.  I don’t want to reveal what that transformation was, because it kind of took me by surprise, and maybe if you read it you will feel the same way.  I really enjoy Ozick’s language.  Her essays to me are far preferable to her fiction, and I like her fiction a lot.  So do with that what you will.

I don’t think I need to provide a plot synopsis of David Copperfield here, though I realize that contrasting it to Heir to the Glimmering World might bear fruit; both are about orphans, to one degree or another, both are coming of age stories, to one degree or another.  For right now, I’ll just say I can’t believe I made it this far in life without reading Dickens.


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