A Dickens of a Lot to Do!

Do you know that feeling – when your head is so full of concerns, worries, events, demands and things to do, that you just freeze, come to a standstill, not knowing which way to go, what to tackle first – and so end up going in all directions and none?

That’s what happened to this blog over the last few months – and it lived on only as half-started posts in my notebook, good intentions and a ghostly on screen presence… the spirit of Bookish Nature Past…

Miss Havisham-like, I still feel a bit frozen and stuck, my blog all cobwebby and neglected. The clocks all stopped. But, on Sunday, some bookish progress was afoot, when I finished reading The Mystery of Edwin Drood – in the nick of time, ahead of the BBC’s adaptation to be screened… tonight!

To be precise, it was back in August when I finished reading The Mystery of Edwin Drood as it was left to us by Charles Dickens – forever suspended at the end of Chapter 23 which, so poignantly, he penned just the day before he died. Since then, I’ve been trying to unfreeze my literary critical faculties enough to write something here about Dickens’s unfinished novel, before embarking on reading Leon Garfield’s interpretation of a possible ending. The plan was to write my impressions of Dickens’s last novel and my take on where it may have been going – then to read Leon Garfield’s completion of the tale, write a separate post on that – and then conclude with a post about the BBC adaptation and how each compares… However, still being stuck in my Bookish Nature version of Satis House, that plan has remained as cobwebbed over as Miss H’s wedding cake!

But, at least now… at the eleventh hour… I’m blowing away the dust and trying to resurrect the poor neglected thing (though I doubt I’ll get my Edwin Drood posts finished in time to coincide with the screening of the television mini-series; will this blog ever be topical??? I always seem to be dozens of steps behind the signs of the times!) With an attempt to stay vaguely on track, I leapt in ahead of the BBC adaptation’s imminent arrival, and read Leon Garfield’s ending of the novel over the weekend – so this resurrected creature of a plan won’t be quite the same thing as was originally intended. But, hey, it just may well morph into something more meaningful…or meandering…or both… and go down all sorts of unexpected ways, maybe following all those probing and mysterious beams of light which, through Dickens’s (and Garfield’s) imagery, follow the novel’s brittle, edgy darkness and prise it open, pestering a reminder of truths to keep the shadows in perpetual tension; a play of light and dark upon the wall – with struggling gleams of possible resurrection and redemption being, I think, what Dickens may have most wanted the reader to keep their eye on…

So, I suppose that’s a very good note on which to also resurrect this blog. I tried in vain to write a detailed post about Edwin Drood yesterday morning and ended up still going down a thousand ways and getting nowhere (I keep hitting this problem of too much in my head, and not enough idea how to deal with it all!) I was feeling a little despondent that I’ll never get back the blogging habit. But, over the next few days (or most probably weeks…) I will attempt to bludgeon into shape all my notes and we shall try to begin again… At least I’ve managed to cobble together this post today, which is a start and makes things seem a little less daunting! And there are some nature oriented posts lurking half prepared in my notebook to knock into shape too…

Add to that the fact that the BBC’s very interesting adaptation of Great Expectations has left me longing to return to the real thing… plus the very tempting group read of Our Mutual Friend (one of my absolute favourite novels of all time) coming soon over at The Argumentative Old Git – I’d better get started on dusting off those cobwebs! See you back here soon for, hopefully, some resulting shiny new posts over the coming weeks…

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2 thoughts on “A Dickens of a Lot to Do!

  1. “Do you know that feeling – when your head is so full of concerns, worries, events, demands and things to do, that you just freeze, come to a standstill, not knowing which way to go, what to tackle first – and so end up going in all directions and none?”

    Shakespeare certainly knew about it:

    But float upon a wild and violent sea
    Each way and none…

    But then again, Shakespeare knew about everything, didn’t he?

    Sorry for having taken so long to see this post. I knew you were planning to start the blog again, but, thinking I had a subscription to this blog, I was waiting for one of those automatic e-mail notifications: it was only by chance that I happened to see this new post. (I will be visiting more regularly from now on.) And yes, it would be wonderful to have you as fellow citizen of Blogville. I’ve been missing those posts of yours back in the BBC board.

    I read what Dickens had written of Edwin Drood many years ago, when I was galloping through all the Dickens novels. I don’t, to be honest, recall it too well- possibly because, being a thriller, Dickens was forced into a terseness that was inimical to his natural inclinations; and that, as a consequence, there is little in Edwin Drood of that exuberant and prodigal outpouring we are now accustomed to refer to as “Dickensian”. And also, possibly, because it lacks a resolution. (I have, however, been searching for Leon Garfields’ completion of the novel.)

    There is something about Victoriana that lends itself to the mystery story, isn’t there? Those foggy gaslit streets provide an ideal setting, and it’s not surprising that Hollywood picked up on it. In one sense, Dickens was trying to do a Wilkie Collins with this one, but in another Dickens himself helped pioneer the mystery story in Bleak House, so if he ,em>was imitating his friend Wilkie Collins, he was merely imitating his imitator.

    I’m afraid I missed all the television adapatations.

    I’ve subscribed to this blog once again – and I do hope to read more! (No pressure or anything…)

    All the best, Himadri

    • Hello Himadri – Thanks so much for your lovely comment… and many thanks too for sticking with this blog, especially after such a long hiatus! Your support and encouragement are much appreciated.

      What an apt quote, Himadri! It’s amazing how a few words on the page can hold so much – and have such an effect on the reader (just the medicine I needed). As you say, yet another example of Shakespeare’s phenomenal wisdom, understanding and art of expression. His words are so often like a rudder to steer us through – a reminder that our feelings and experiences have a home and true reflection on the page and stage; a ‘mirror up to nature.’

      That’s odd that you didn’t receive the notifictaion email thingy – your blog is recorded as having been subscribed to mine for over a year now. Probably the poor old system was surprised awake by the sudden dusting off of the Bookish Nature cobwebs, and was feeling a bit muddle-headed! Hopefully, now you’ve subscribed again, all lines of communication have been re-opened!

      Once more, you have the uncanny ability to recall the atmosphere and style of a book you’ve not read in years with wonderful accuracy, Himadri. Terse is a very good word; there’s something very different about Edwin Drood - and yet so many of the Dickensian hallmarks push and bulge through the terseness (he just couldn’t help himself, I think, no matter how sombre he got) – whilst being held in some kind of tight cocoon at the same time. I’m re-reading Dickens’s 23 chapters at the moment, before I embark on my post for this blog (I felt I owed them another read through, due to there having been such a big gap between my initial reading of the novel and my recent immersion in Leon Garfield’s completing chapters).

      I found my copy of the edition with Garfield’s ending for sale online a couple of years ago. The book is in near perfect condition and was at a low price, so I was really lucky. If copies come up online, the price can be very much on the high side (Amazon and Abebooks have them sometimes, I think).

      I found it well worth reading – I think Leon Garfield was possibly the only writer who could produce prose which approaches anything quite like the style of The Great Inimitable. I’ve been really quite impressed with the levels of success he achieved in his attempt at imitation (more on that in my posts…)

      I’ve always credited Garfield with preparing the way, during my childhood reading, for my Dickens mania later in life. Garfield’s children’s books are so Dickensian! I love your point about Wilkie Collins and the circle of imitation…

      You know, typing this is doing wonders in helping to get the cogs well and truly turning for my Edwin Drood write up!

      Many thanks again for your company, Himadri! It’s great to be back in Blogville (you never know, when I’ve caught up with the blogging, I may even manage to have enough steam left over to chug, Mr Pancks fashion, over to the Books Board… though it may be a case of a very slow imitation of that tug boatish gentleman for a while yet!)

      All the best,
      Melanie

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