August 28, 2011: Random Reading, Musing

True Confession:  Every winter, I randomly pull down a Dickens novel from a set my grandmother once owned. This past winter I read—with some gritting of teeth—my least favorite: Martin Chuzzlewit. So I read this past week’s Jill Lepore article in “The New Yorker” re Dickens, which gave deep background to much of the writer’s oeuvre, including MC, with great interest.

Another confession: I’d like to believe that I dislike MC for its tedious structure, its weak plot and the unconvincing redemption of its main character. But maybe Dickens’ novel, in which he unabashedly and vigorously bashes the United States, makes me very uncomfortable. (Go figure!)

Curiously, although Lepore, as usual, wrote a fascinating article, she only peripherally elucidates one of the most compelling reasons why Dickens was so disgusted with this country. Slavery. (Not difficult to understand that, is it?)

Last confession: Sometimes I fear that the toxic and soul-killing effects of slavery will destroy this country.

But as Hurricane Irene pounds my windows with rain, I again muse on how we collectively and metaphorically wash ourselves clean. And again am reminded of this poem:


by Susan Lloyd McGarry

Guaman Poma, native to the Andes, wrote to the King of Spain in 1615: If you knew what they are doing

in your name, you would cry such tears, enough tears to cleanse the world, to start again.

The King did not reply.

Brothers and sisters, friends and children, neighbors: if you only knew what is being done in our name, the suffering, the hunger— but you do know and so do I. But we don’t know how to stop. And now there’s more talk of war.

Maybe if we really heard the stories, let them into our bodies, we could let our tears fall and fall, we

could be clean, there might be a way to start again.

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  1. Precisely. Martin Chuzzlewit was published twenty years before the US civil war ended. There is progress, not only in technology but also in civility: the US invasion of Iraq, and now the US reluctance to intervene in Libya- there is progress in the US, in its attitude to military action.

  2. Hi Patricia
    This was a surprise… I too read the Lepore article, but it wasn’t only slavery from that–but it was that people weren’t willing to pay for literature, or at least for Dickens’ books,
    though they were reading them…

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