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Move On! What I’ve Been Reading

January 11, 2008
Since November, I have been reading Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. It is almost nine hundred pages you know, but that is not what is slowing me down. I only read Bleak House thirty minutes a day, the same thirty minutes every day. I spend the rest of my available time reading other stuff. I have Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night pulled out but, I don’t know when I will get to it, I had hoped it would be on January 6th but that date has come and gone. Now thanks to Verging Writer I have been introduced to The Plays of Georgia Douglas Johnson: From the New Negro Renaissance to the Civil Rights Movement. (Edited and with an Introduction by Judith L. Stephens). I just received my copy yesterday along with Dickens Christmas Carol on CD read by Jim Dale (he is a wonderful reader). I squeeze the books on CD in while I’m alone in the car. I discovered today that reading is truly my favorite source of in take. I had to reverse the CD twice because my mind would drift away in thought and away from listening. Checking The Norton Anthology of African American Literature I see that Georgia Douglas Johnson only rates two pages, –a small introductory paragraph and a few poems, no plays. The Anthology is disproportionately favored toward men, at least in quantity and the accompanying audio disc is predominately men as well. Speaking of the Renaissance, we have tickets to Ain’t Misbehavin’ for this weekend at the Fred Kavli Theatre in Thousand Oaks. The reviews have been favorable.

I did not think I would ever find a novel that I would consider my favorite. I am close to bestowing that honor on Bleak House. There are countless works of fiction that I like, perhaps even love, love enough to own the book, but I never could narrow it down to a best. Bleak House is simply superb. Maybe not in the story or the plot, but in the writing, in the ride, in the exploration of each character and how Dickens ties it all together, not to mention how there are so many universal conditions that can be extracted and used to analyse people and circumstances. Just today while driving home I noticed a homeless woman pushing a shopping cart. She was just about at the same spot at the same time yesterday, but it is not an area one could stop or bunker down. She was definitely going somewhere. Sort of like she takes the same route every day all for the purpose of just moving on, but not really going anywhere. A passage illustrating just this type of moving on is in Bleak House when Jo (a poor and homeless crossing sweeper) is confronted by a police constable and taken to Mr. Snagsby for identity confirmation:

Mr. Snagsby descends and finds the two ‘prentices intently contemplating a police constable, who holds a ragged boy by the arm.

“Why, bless my heart,” says Mr. Snagsby, “what’s the matter!”

“This boy,” says the constable, “although he’s repeatedly told to, won’t move on—”

“I’m always a–moving on, sar, cries the boy, wiping away his grimy tears with his arm. “I’ve always been a–moving and a–moving on, ever since I was born. Where can I possibly move to, sir, more nor I do move!”

“He won’t move on,” says the constable calmly, with a slight professional hitch of his neck involving its better settlement in his stiff stock, “although he has been repeatedly cautioned, and therefore I am obliged to take him into custody. He’s as obstinate a young gonoph as I know. He WON’T move on.”

“Oh, my eye! Where can I move to!” cries the boy, clutching quite desperately at his hair and beating his bare feet upon the floor of Mr. Snagsby’s passage.

“Don’t you come none of that or I shall make blessed short work of you!” says the constable, giving him a passionless shake. “My instructions are that you are to move on. I have told you so five hundred times.”

“But where?” cries the boy.

“Well! Really, constable, you know,” says Mr. Snagsby wistfully, and coughing behind his hand his cough of great perplexity and doubt, “really, that does seem a question. Where, you know?”

“My instructions don’t go to that,” replies the constable. “My instructions are that this boy is to move on.”

Do you hear, Jo? It is nothing to you or to any one else that the great lights of the parliamentary sky have failed for some few years in this business to set you the example of moving on. The one grand recipe remains for you—the profound philosophical prescription—the be–all and the end–all of your strange existence upon earth. Move on! You are by no means to move off, Jo, for the great lights can’t at all agree about that. Move on!

Don’t you just love the narrator’s sarcasm in the last paragraph?

8 Comments
  1. Kitty Glendower permalink
    January 11, 2008 6:46 am

    I can never successfully create a trackback link. I just don’t understand what I’m doing wrong.

  2. Rent Party permalink
    January 11, 2008 3:55 pm

    Excellent. I need to read all of this.

    Which are trackback links? I tried to
    explain how to do just now but there were HTML terms in my comment, Blogger thought I was actually trying to make a link and doing it wrong, in effect it wouldn’t let me discuss this topic!!!

  3. Kitty Glendower permalink
    January 11, 2008 6:11 pm

    I wanted the Verging Writer reference to be a trackback. I went to her blog, I pressed the button that said “Create a Link,” it opened a new post window which I used. It only created the title of her post at the beginning of this post, so I deleted it. It did not make a link in her comment section.

  4. Chris permalink
    January 12, 2008 12:25 am

    I wish I had your passion for reading fiction. I know that I am missing out on some great works. I read mostly nonfiction, in most cases from a selfish standpoint. Lately, I’ve been enjoying memiors.

    I really need to get some Poe. I used to LOVE reading Poe as a pre-teen. Funny thing is that I got it from the library of a very conservative Southern Baptist church. They must have meant to throw it into the burn pile, you think? I would skip the evening service and hide in a catwalk above the auditorium, reading. That brings back memories. Dusty, dimly lit memories.

  5. Kitty Glendower permalink
    January 12, 2008 12:36 am

    There is self-help in Fiction. Not saying it is as good or worse than non-fiction self-help, but I am declaring that there is self help in fiction and I love it, because I can be attached to me and detached from the examples. How do you like that run-on?

  6. Verging Writer permalink
    January 20, 2008 6:57 pm

    Kitty – I check your blog almost every day – but somehow I missed this. Thanks for the link. I am thrilled to have inspired someone to read GDJ. I really am. I am presenting a paper at a conference, in your corner of the country I believe, in a couple of months on GDJ’s play SAFE. Please let me know what you think when you’ve read Stephens’ book.

    Thanks!

  7. Kitty Glendower permalink
    January 21, 2008 5:30 am

    I read Safe. I want to do a blog entry but I get caught up trying to write an essay as if I’m in college and someone is going to grade it. I have not mastered the art of talking about a piece in more casual terms. Not that Safe can be talked about lightly I suppose.

  8. Verging Writer permalink
    January 22, 2008 4:43 am

    I would love to hear your thoughts on the play – or others of her plays. I promise not to grade your post! Or you can e-mail me?

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