Prejudices

Yes, yes, I’ll admit it: I do harbour one or two prejudices. Nothing serious. Nothing shocking. All to do with books and writers. And not in the way you might think. It’s not a genre thing; I’ll happily give pretty much anything a go (have yourselves a look at my Goodreads page, if you like). But there are some authors I’ve decided I don’t like, and, in a few cases, it’s a little unfair as I’ve not actually read anything by them. Yes, Nik: very unfair. I know, I know. Shaun Hutson, Adrian Mole, and Mossflower it wasn’t.

Until yesterday, I even had a thing about Dickens. I tried ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ when I was younger – twelve or thirteen, I think. I didn’t get very far. There were so many WORDS and, from what I could tell, nothing actually happened.

I tried a couple since – ‘Great Expectations’, and ‘Bleak House’ (I think) and again, I ended up giving up for similar reasons. I just couldn’t get into it.

And since becoming a writer, I’ll be honest, I’ve kind of avoided his work. As I’m more in the Hemingway school of story and sentence construction, for my own work,  (less is more) Dickens’ work didn’t really fit with me. So, with the memory of my twelve year old self still vivid, I left him unread. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t a conscious thing – there were simply other authors I was more interested in.

So. To Tuesday. I was buggering about on my Kindle and I happened upon a Dickens book: ‘A Christmas Carol’. It was free (God bless ya, Amazon) so I thought I’d take a punt. I downloaded it. And, to my surprise, I found that I was really, really enjoying the experience and the story AND the writing.

So, I popped back to Amazon (there were no copies in my library and I didn’t have time to visit an actual book shop) and I ordered a paperback. It arrived yesterday and I read it, pretty much, from cover to cover. And, I LOVED it. I mean, the story telling is pretty much perfect. Masterful. The characterisation and the description are wonderful. And I can see now, even from one very short novella, why Dickens is held in such high regard. He is a true master and I doubt it’ll be too long before I dip into his back list again. Any recommendations? And do any of you have any prejudices as unreasonable as mine?

20 Comments on “Prejudices

  1.  by  Sue

    Martin Chuzzlewit is my favourite. I laughed so much, reading it on the beach some years ago, people crowded round asking me to read it aloud! Pecksniff is a most wonderful comic invention.

  2.  by  Hilary

    Bleak House is my recommendation – law, family secrets, spontaneous combustion – there’s no novel quite like it. A perfect combination of sensation, sensitivity and sentiment (sorry, got a bit alliterative there).

    What a great blog post! I can relate to every word, as I found Dickens too hard for many years. Even now, there are few of his novels that I count among my favourites – though Christmas Carol is one, and I can imagine how it opened the door for you. As well as Bleak House, consider trying Little Dorrit – similar winning combination.

    •  by  nikperring

      Thanks Hilary – pleased to know I’m not the only one. I shall most certainly check them out. And you’re right – A Christmas Carol has most definitely opened a door for me. Hurrah!

  3.  by  Deborah Rickard

    It’s amazing how divided thought on Dickens is but I can see why. Yes, his novels are in the main “baggy”, which might be due to the serialised publication of the day, and his characters! Some are so caricatured as to be annoying and some so maudlin it puts you off, and then, I find his death scenes rather melodramatic. BUT, and with regard to ‘Great Expectations’ especially I think, his descriptions are so spot on and reveal so much. Take the first chapter and graveyard scene; it’s atmospheric, enticing, describes Pip’s past and character and the detail makes it real.
    Dickens was a man of his time and gave us a lot to enjoy and a lot to learn and move on from. And good writing will always be good writing, no matter how tastes change.

    •  by  nikperring

      Thanks Deborah – yes, I think the ‘man of his time’ thing is something that’s struck me too – he does do it very well. And you’re right too – I think he might have benefited from not being paid by the word…!

  4.  by  Gayle Beveridge

    Ah, you’ve seen the light; Charles Dickens is indeed the master. My prejudice – Stephen King. Now, I know he’s an incredibly successful writer and there’s no disputing he has a talent but I’ve read a couple of his books, and quite frankly, I find them sickening in parts.

    •  by  nikperring

      Yes, Gayle, the light has been seen. And it was a long time coming.

      As far as Stephen King goes – you’re right his talent isn’t in doubt. He does what he does exceptionally well. Must say, as much as I’m not a particular fan of horror, he had written some utterly wonderful non-horror things too: The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption to name just two. Not to everyone’s taste though.

  5.  by  Dan Powell

    I’d recommend giving Great Expectations another crack. Some wonderfully drawn scenes and characters and such a powerful story. Also, once read you can compare the ending Dickens published with the one he originally intended – gives an insight into his craft and the publishing business of the day.

    As for my prejudice, I’ve always discounted the P G Woodhouse/Jeeevs and Wooster books as not my thing, but watching Stephen Fry and Robert McCrumb discuss them on Planet Word the other day I think I may have to rethink my position when I get a minute.

    •  by  nikperring

      Thanks Dan – I shall definitely give it a whirl at some point soon. I think I share your doubts re Wodehouse, but more because of it really not sounding like my kind of thing at all, rather than its writing; I like the quotes I’ve seen from them but I do worry it’s more about the gags than anything…

  6.  by  Maree Kimberley

    Great Expectations is one of my favourite all time novels, but I could never get into Bleak House at all. And when I was younger I adored P.G; Wodehouse, but not sure I’d feel the same way about it now. I was forced to read DH Lawrence in high school and still can’t cope with him.

    •  by  nikperring

      Hi Maree – another one for Great Expectation, eh? It’s slowly moving up my list…

      I tried DH Lawrence when I was younger too, and didn’t get very far. Nor did I go back!

  7.  by  Kristen Stone

    I felt the same about Dickens. I read 200 pages of Nicholas Nickleby when I was a teenager for a bet, and never read another page after 200. Last year when I got an e-reader (not a Kindle, they weren’t available here, then) I read Oliver Twist for the first time and enjoyed it. Then I managed to get a whole collection of Dickens for free. I think what put my off was the SIZE of each book when I was younger. What we have to remember when reading these books is that people didn’t have TV and movies to show them what was happening. There were not as many writers, either.
    The one writer I can’t read is Jane Austen – I just can’t relate to her characters or the fact that married couples call each other by their surnames! Can you imagine calling your partner Mr Smith when talking to him?

    •  by  nikperring

      Hi Kirsten – and hello! Lovely to see you over here.
      I think your experience sounds all too familiar – that being forced to read him thing can hardly ever work. Interesting to see that you, like me, enjoyed him when you read him by choice.

      And I’m not an Austen fan either – but she did what she did well and I’m happy that lots of others do enjoy her. Just not for me either!

      And, well, I don’t know about calling any partner by her last name – I’d need one first!

  8.  by  Cathy

    I picked up a copy of Great Expectations a couple of years ago, as I thought I probably ‘should’ read some Dickens. Like you, it was too wordy for me, and I gave up on it. Although I appreciated the writing skill, It was taking me too long to read and I had dozens of other books waiting for me.

    I am curious though, why after reading it on Kindle, you went and bought a paper copy?

    •  by  nikperring

      Hey Cathy! Not just me then! 😉

      I bought in papery, booky form, simply because I WANT to own the papery booky versions of books I like. Kindle’s FAB as a tool, but I’m still one for actually owning the proper thing…

    •  by  nikperring

      Hello Sue! Always a pleasure to see you here!

      Yep, I know Elizabeth Baines and her blog. Thanks!

      Ha! I know what you mean about the over hyped thing. And I think that’s (mostly) probably a healthy prejudice to have (or at least, it’s not a bad thing that it causes suspicion!) – the proof’s in the pudding, not in the hype, I’d say.

  9.  by  Lane

    Hey Nik

    Maybe etexts and ereaders [and free books generally – however bad they might be for the writers if still alive and in need of cash!] are good for ironing out lit prejudices. I wonder if this is also about author as brand in a way? In the same way you might blanket hate a writer’s work because off one book you didn’t get on with, you might love one book by a particular writer and simply not want to read their other books.

    I know someone who has bought every book by a certain writer, out of some lextreme loyalty acquired at an impressionable age no doubt, but when he doesnt like it past page 3 he gives the book to me and claims he bought it for me.

    Then again, if he changes his mind and likes it, the book is his again! 😉

    •  by  nikperring

      Hey Lane – Thanks for dropping by!

      You know, I think you’re right – I think that’s one of the great uses of eReaders: they do give us the chance to sample things (for free!) and at our leisure. I’m not sure I’d have remembered to look out for Dickens (for instance) at my book shop, and my library didn’t have any copies so my kindle made it accessible.

      As for your friend – I like his thinking! Plus – you get books, which is never a bad thing! 🙂

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