At least once a year over the past several years I have made the quip that this will be the year that I finally read Bleak House. Never being a huge fan of Dickens and having enjoyed only one of his novels (Great Expectations) though having started a few I never saw myself reading Bleak House. Earlier in this year I rediscovered the library. We signed the boys up for a reading program designed with toddlers in mind and that got us going to the library and it got me interested in all sorts of things.
All that led me to start checking out books I am interested in but do not wish to purchase which got me thinking maybe this really should be the year I read Bleak House, and now I am reading it. I am only 60 pages into the work and while Dickens writing is uniquely modern for a book written 169 years ago it is dense. Lots of description and lots of exposition. Each page is filled with a lot of text, but Dickens was an excellent and colorful writer and the language being virtually identical to our modern English makes it a not overly difficult read. I have gotten bored at times but imagine that subsiding as I get deeper in.
The reason I bring up Bleak House though is I was reading it tonight and thinking about the language and the authors preface at the beginning of the book and how Bleak House could be a historical fiction novel written this year instead of a work of realist fiction from 1852 England. Books aren’t only a glimpse into the world contained within the book they are a glimpse into the time period of the author and it is so strange that Dickens’ English is so like our own.
Or perhaps it is not. I don’t read that many 1852 writers often but I think of Poe or Melville and how their works read old. You can tell they are of a different time. Dickens is different. So while reading it tonight and being enraptured by this modern sounding English I imagined someone 169 years from now reading a book published this year and suddenly I viewed time in layers. There is a mirror for me 169 years in the future reading a current work of fiction and having thoughts similar to mine. Time is a high rise building and if we can only think hard enough we can get to the next floor.
That isn’t how it works at all, but it would be interesting if it were. Either way this is the year I read Bleak House. Perhaps next year will be the year I read Rabbit Run or maybe I’ll get to that one this year as well.