Saturday, August 29, 2015

Dickensian Description

From Charles Dickens' "Martin Chuzzlewit":

"It was a small tyranny for a respectable wind to go wreaking its vengeance on such poor creatures as the fallen leaves, but this wind happening to come up with a great heap of them just after venting its humour on the insulted Dragon, did so disperse and scatter them that they fled away, pell mell, some here, some there, rolling over each other, whirling round and round upon their thin edges, taking frantic flights into the air, and playing all manner of extraordinary gambols in the extremity of their distress.  Nor was this enough for its malicious fury:  for not content with driving them abroad, it charged small parties of them and hunted them into the wheel wright's saw-pit, and below the planks and timbers in the yard and, scattering the sawdust in the air, it looked for them underneath, and when it did meet with any, whew! how it drove them on and followed at their heels!  The scared leaves only flew the faster for all this, and a giddy chase it was:  for they got into unfrequented places, where there was no outlet, and where their pursuer kept them eddying round and round at his pleasure; and they crept under the eaves of hosues, and clung tightly to the sides of hay-ricks, like bats; and tore in at open chamber windows, and cowered close to hedges; and in short went anywhere for safety.  But the oddest feat they achieved was, to take advantage of the sudden opening of Mr. Pecksniff's front-door, to dash wildly into his passage; whither the wind following close upon them, and finding the back-door open, incontinently blew out the lighted candle held by Miss Peckshiff, and slammed the front-door against Mr. Pecksniff who was at that moment entering, with such violence, that in the twinkling of an eye he lay on his back at the bottom of the steps.  Being by this time weary of such trifling performances, the boisterous rover hurried away rejoicing, roaring over moor and meadlow, hill and flat, until it got out to sea, where it met with other winds similarly disposed, and made a night of it."

This is what I have been missing from modern novels:  intricately written descriptions of the simplest of natural events and laced with good humour.  Thank you Mr. Dickens!

1 comment:

chris e. said...

A 2 word explanation: word count. Modern novels (unless the author is a proven money maker) don't have a snowball's chance of even making it past the slush pile if the word count is over 100,000 or 120,000 tops, in which case the literary agent will tell you to trim off the 'excess' 20,000 words. One reason given for this is that young people--used to reading text messages--simply can't adjust to anything that long. So the rest of us should care??? Adjectives are frowned upon too. 'Show, don't tell' is the marching order this century, which results in for instance, a character slamming a Cuisinart into the cupboards instead of making a remark with forehead creased with concern.
Gee, read any good books published lately?