Monday, October 11, 2010

The Old Curiosity Shop

by Charles Dickens

Mostly Thumbs Down

I used to read primarily classic literature.  It was my way of trying to constantly increase my cultural literacy.  Most classic titles have become classics because they are rich in some quantifiable factor: memorable characters, historical commentary, well-crafted interpersonal scenarios, ethical or social dilemmas, or simply great story telling.  The really great stories combine several of these factors.  There are a few, however, that become classics for some more vague, perhaps unquantifiable reason.

I will put The Old Curiosity Shop into this category.  Dickens does give readers a cast of very colorful, memorable characters.  He also presents a variety of ethical and social situations, many not good.  But in general, the story seems to drag.  And drag.  And drag.  I did finally feel a pull by the plot in about the final 120 pages or so of the 530 page book.  But for the entire first portion of the book I really had to force myself to pick it  up each time.  It just wasn't that interesting.

And it was sad in wearying kind of way.  I found myself repulsed by the behavior of so many of the characters.  I know there are evil people in the world, but thankfully, God has spared me contact with evil such as Dickens give Mr. Quilp and a few of the others in the book.  When I sit to read, I want to be refreshed, not worn down.

There were, however characters of great virtue.  There were many witty paragraphs that gave astute insight into human nature.  There were touching scenes of caring.  I find myself intrigued by Dickens' ability to use the English language.  And I was taught several words with which I was previously unfamiliar.

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