Dickens is 200, and I ramble

Happy 200th, Charlie!

I feel immersed in Charles Dickens’s world and awed at how productive he was because I am reading the new biography Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin. Always short of money the first half of his life, Dickens took on an enormous amount of work writing and editing for newspapers and monthly serials with ever-looming deadlines. It makes me feel that one ought to just produce, produce, produce  without fretting too much over perfection. Sure, the deadlines, strain, and constant labor created some bad melodrama but also some wonderful characters. (What are the chances this could work for my writing?)

Dickens wasn’t all genius and light. Despite becoming a moral crusader publicly, I’m just getting to the scandalous part  of the biography when his personal life shows him as his worst: bullying, sacrosanct, and cruel. I have great sympathy with his wife between the constant pregnancies for over a decade and then being summonarily put aside and made fun of as fat to friends while Dickens took up with an actress. Of course, he died at 58 less than 10 years later, which shows what happens when you take up with actresses. The biography itself is excellent, but if you are feeling lazy, as I often do when staring at 400+ pages, may I recommend:

Also, I’m inspired to try a Dicken’s novel as it was meant to be read originally- in serial form. Or close to it. I could sit down every week and read one chapter of Bleak House or Our Mutual Friend or maybe The Pickwick Club! Any recommendations on which would be best?

For more blathering about Dickens:

Ravels in Review

This week will no doubt go down in your minds and blogger history as being that of my birthday. Good–please remember that next May 26.

  • As I learned in doing historical research, historically few great things have happened on May 26 aside from my birth.
  • I wrote about my experience buying art (none) and some of the difficulties of buying art on a budget. Just a note: the gallery called my boyfriend back yesterday to say that the work in particular that I had liked was available.
  • The Hernan Bas show at Lehman Maupin predicts the future to be lush and lonely, and that says a small part of how much one could say about the artist’s most recent paintings.
  • Lastly, I was so struck by an old book that accidentally came into my hands that I had to share the artist/author Eugene Fromentin’s extremely dated travel book of Dutch painters with you. He is in rapture over Rubens and Rembrandt. Hero worship like his doesn’t exist anymore in criticism, maybe to our loss.

On the other hand, Fromentin is not so kind to his contemporary (1870s) art scene in France. The Impressionists, apparently, have no sense of value or line or color, and only Corot and Delacroix are worthy of respect. In fact, let me leave you with a few more of his words;

Landscapes make every day more proselytes than progress. Those who practise it exclusively are not more skillfull in that account, but there are more painters who try it. Open air, diffused light, the real sunlight, take today in painting, and in all paintings, an importance which has never before been recognized, and which, let us say it frankly, they do not deserve.

Photographic studies as to the effects of light have changed the greater proportion of ways of seeing, feeling, and painting. At the present time, painting is never sufficiently clear, sharp, formal, and crude.

The abuse of useless roundness has driven into excess flat surface, and bodies without thickness. Modelling disappeared the very day when the means of expression seemed best, and ought to have rendered it more intelligent, so that what was progress among the Hollanders is for us a step backward; and after issuing from archaic art, under pretext of new innovation, we return thither.