May 31, 2012

Eileen Myles on Charles Dickens

I always date people who turn me on to great books. Often not right away. Sometimes right away. An ex said Bleak House was of great interest to Marxists. And now my beloved Leopoldine had Bleak House by Charles Dickens on her shelf. We were auditioning candidates for the reading aloud before bed spot. I read the first chapter of Bleak House and I was so elated by the flow which was utterly English, a thing I mostly have no use for and yet in Bleak House I was in the poetry of it. I would claim that the best English poetry is in English prose though I will also say that I was doing a studio visit in Rotterdam last week and a young artist asked if he could read me some Jeremy Prynne who Lisa Robertson had introduced him to and I was also taken by the compressed and odd music of Prynne’s work. But Dickens. He’s funny. He nails people in these flash character portraits but you know I think it was generally the landscape that mostly took me:

The sun was low – near setting – and its light came redly in above, without descending to the ground.

And soon after that the human landscape: Mr. Jarndyce, it is very kind of you to come to see me. I am not long to be seen, I think.

Dickens wrote in time where people talked like that - Death was perhaps a matter of going off stage – for good. Or else least people aspired to talking like that. Since it’s all that there was language was in everyone’s ears. I think of the 19th c. as having talk, and landscape, and a wealth disparity as grand as ours. So to be in Dickens observant colloquial world of this book (and it took me months to read) was to be both more and less at home in ours. In 1853 when Bleak House appeared the world still spoke richly of its problems and since even my own grandmother was born in 1880 and she is long gone we can’t ask anyone if a world about talking hurt less. But they died younger. So.

(Learn more about Eileen Myles herself here.)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

nice blg dear; keep it up:)