Sunday, August 07, 2011

Back to Mr. Dickens

I kept thinking how much the US Congress dickering over the debt ceiling is just like Dickens's Circumlocution Office, with all the talk of why "it can't be done." So I put aside Susan Isaacs's LILY WHITE, which was boring me, in favor of LITTLE DORRIT, which isn't.

The cinematic opening, which I looked for in vain when I watched the BBC series, fits right in with the breathless weather we're having:
Thirty years ago, Marseilles lay burning in the sun, one day. A blazing sun upon a fierce August day was no greater rarity in southern France then, than at any other time, before or since. Everything in Marseilles, and about Marseilles, had stared at the fervid sky, and been stared at in return, until a staring habit had become universal there. Strangers were stared out of countenance by staring white houses, staring white walls, staring white streets, staring tracts of arid road, staring hills from which verdure was burnt away. The only things to be seen not fixedly staring and glaring were the vines drooping under their load of grapes. These did occasionally wink a little, as the hot air barely moved their faint leaves.

There was no wind to make a ripple on the foul water within the harbour, or on the beautiful sea without. The line of demarcation between the two colours, black and blue, showed the point which the pure sea would not pass; but it lay as quiet as the abominable pool, with which it never mixed. Boats without awnings were too hot to touch; ships blistered at their moorings; the stones of the quays had not cooled, night or day, for months.
This may be the last time I read my Penguin paperback edition, which I bought in 1984, as the pages keep fluttering out of the cracked binding. It's odd to have a book that I remember buying new to be looking--and especially smelling--so old.