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.