Tuesday, July 05, 2005
What in the Dickens!
Yesterday I finished reading A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens -- which you can actually read free online at that link, if you like reading things online. I went the old fashioned route and purchased a hard copy of the book 17 years ago from a Scholastic Book order. I then let it mature on my childhood bookshelf, high school bookshelf, college bookshelf, single bookshelf, working girl bookshelf, dating bookshelf, grad school bookshelf, working again bookshelf, and married bookshelf. After moving this thing around with me for 17 years, I finally decided it was time to read it. And it was great.
I'd only read one Dicken's book before, Great Expectations, and I got really sucked into it. I didn't expect to like this one as much, since its about the French Revolution and all, and I always thought the beginning was kind of boring (you know, the "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." thing). It is actually very exciting, sometimes sentimental, with a wonderful structure, good characters, and some awesomely gruesome scenes like this one, which I shall quote in detail:
"The grindstone had a double handle, and, turning at it madly were two men, whose faces, as their long hair Rapped back when the whirlings of the grindstone brought their faces up, were more horrible and cruel than the visages of the wildest savages in their most barbarous disguise. False eyebrows and false moustaches were stuck upon them, and their hideous countenances were all bloody and sweaty, and all awry with howling, and all staring and glaring with beastly excitement and want of sleep. As these ruffians turned and turned, their matted locks now flung forward over their eyes, now flung backward over their necks, some women held wine to their mouths that they might drink; and what with dropping blood, and what with dropping wine, and what with the stream of sparks struck out of the stone, all their wicked atmosphere seemed gore and fire. The eye could not detect one creature in the group free from the smear of blood. Shouldering one another to get next at the sharpening-stone, were men stripped to the waist, with the stain all over their limbs and bodies; men in all sorts of rags, with the stain upon those rags; men devilishly set off with spoils of women's lace and silk and ribbon, with the stain dyeing those trifles through and through. Hatchets, knives, bayonets, swords, all brought to be sharpened, were all red with it. Some of the hacked swords were tied to the wrists of those who carried them, with strips of linen and fragments of dress: ligatures various in kind, but all deep of the one colour. And as the frantic wielders of these weapons snatched them from the stream of sparks and tore away into the streets, the same red hue was red in their frenzied eyes;--eyes which any unbrutalised beholder would have given twenty years of life, to petrify with a well-directed gun."
Sorry to quote such a long chunk, but oh my god, doesn't that make you want to run out and read this?
In addition, I credit reading this book in four or five days, and then immediately reading an article about the Cultural Revolution and Maoism in China (plus a beer and brandy slam-down right before bed that riled me up instead of knocking me out) for my restless night of revolution gone a-foul dreams last night.
[Oh, and the illustration above is from my copyright 1962 Scholastic version. I do believe they are storming the Bastille.]
Let me add that I have just spent two and a half hours trying to get various State of Texas online applications accessed and started for my husband (because he is out and about, and I'm just that sweet), with variously frustrating results. Why can't every State Department use the same application system? Its the same application! Why have to fill the damn thing out so many times? Why not get servers that actually work instead of the ones that erase everything that I typed in the past hour? Why! And now some whiskey, because those applications made me cry. Damn them.