Little Dorrit: ABC TV, 27 June 2010, 8:35 p.m.

Reply Wed 7 Jul, 2010 04:24 am
Feel free to comment on this adaptation of one of Dickens novels or, indeed, any aspect of Dickens.-Ron Price, Tasmania

Although I was a student then teacher of English literature and composition at all levels of the educational process, from primary to post-secondary school from the 1950s through the 1960s, I never really got ‘into’ the works of Charles Dickens(1812-1870). They were never on any of the curricula. The opening sentence to one of my all time favorite books in the world The Catcher In the Rye by J.D. Salinger placed my attitude as a young and middle-aged man to Charles Dickens. That sentence read: "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know about my life is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap..." As I got into late adulthood, though, the years after 60, according to one model of human development in the lifespan, I began to take an interest in Dickens.
Tonight I watched the first of a new mini-series Little Dorrit. It was screened in the U.K. in 2008, in the USA in 2009 and now it was here in Australia in 2010.1 Little Dorrit was published between 1855 and 1857. It was, among other things, an indictment of the British system of justice. Virginia Woolf maintained that "we remodel our psychological geography when we read Dickens," as he produces "characters who exist not in detail, not accurately or exactly, but abundantly in a cluster of wild yet extraordinarily revealing remarks."

All authors might be said to incorporate autobiographical elements in their fiction or, in my case, in their poetry. With both Dickens and I, though, this autobiographical aspect to their writing is very noticeable. Dickens took pains to mask what he considered his shameful, lowly past. I do not take pains to mask my life, although I certainly do not reveal-all. Dickens's own father was sent to prison for debt, and this became a common theme in many of his books. The detailed depiction of life in the Marshalsea prison in Little Dorrit resulted from Dickens's own experiences of that institution. The delightful Claire Foy, as Amy Dorrit, is an idealised character; this idealising of character serves only to highlight Dickens's goal of poignant social commentary. An important impact of Dickens's episodic writing style resulted from his exposure to the opinions of his readers. Since Dickens did not write the chapters very far ahead of their publication, he was allowed to witness the public reaction and alter the story depending on those public reactions. I, too, found, this aspect of public reaction important in my writing on the internet since I retired from FT, PT and casual work in the years 1999 to 2005.-Ron Price with thanks to 1ABC TV, 27 June 2010, 8:35 p.m.

Well, Charles, I can understand
your despair about society and
those seemingly unbridgeable
gaps. Yes, people do so stick
to their beliefs---assumptions
about life with their emotions
wrapped around them—their
faith, Charles, that’s their faith.
We all have our faith; for each
of us our faith decides what our
mountains are from day to day..

Yes, Charles, we all go on our
pilgrimage in search of eternity
as restless travellers in search of
our true selves often imprisoned
as they are in the greatest prison
of all---the prison of self.1 Thank
you, Charles, for so many things:
helping me with my writing, my
autobiographical self and listening
to my readers as best I can before
writing more in my serialized and
seemingly endless prose---poetry.

1 Takao Saijo, “Charles Dickens: His Novels and Society,” Internet Site, 27 June 2010.

Ron Price
27 June 2010
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Reply Wed 7 Jul, 2010 04:36 am
Nice to see a new Dickens thread. He is my favorite novelist of them all.
Reply Wed 7 Jul, 2010 05:01 am
thanks for the response, edgarblythe.-Ron in Tasmania
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Reply Wed 7 Jul, 2010 05:36 am
The 'debtor's prison' with its micro-community interactions is fascinating.
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Green Witch
Reply Wed 7 Jul, 2010 05:52 am
It really annoyed me that the TV production totally screwed up the ending of the novel to the point it made no sense. What's the point of sitting through something like 8 hours of a dramatization only to have the author's ending changed?
Reply Wed 7 Jul, 2010 06:31 am
@Green Witch,
Little Dorrit is one of the few Dickens books I haven't read. I really enjoyed the TV production until the last episode when it seems that they just decided to end it. I was so confused I watched it again and still didn't get it so I read the ending in the book to figure out how it was supposed to end.

Nice production. Very bizarre ending!
Green Witch
Reply Wed 7 Jul, 2010 06:42 am
My husband's theory is that they wanted to trick all the students who would watch the series instead of reading the book. Teachers could catch them by asking questions about ending.
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Reply Wed 7 Jul, 2010 06:48 am
I am not a reader of Dickens either and so, when a television adaptation does not fit the novel, I'm not bothered. My interest in Dickens is more biographical. I wrote the following about Dickens recently and I post it here for your possible interest. -Ron in Tasmania
Poets and writers often interpret criticism of their poems, their works, as criticism of themselves. It is for this reason among others that I prefer a more gentle form of critique that the one taken up by Charles Dickens. He observed that criticism “means saying about an author the very things that would have made him jump out of his boots." Too heavy for me, Charles. The approach I take to criticism of others, and the one I would enjoy being taken to my work, is the one based on Matthew Arnold's precept of letting the mind play freely around a subject in which there has been much effort to understand. I have certainly taken much thought in creating and outlining a perspective on my life in my memoirs and I have enjoyed the free play of other minds and their perspectives in my effort to understand my own life.

In recent decades there has been a recrudescence of autobiographical writing in the Bahá’í community, a community I have been assoicated with for six decades, and the virtual absence of any formal criticism of it has not been a serious problem. Such a literary criticism is emerging slowly but surely in these four epochs. If Virginia Woolf is right, it seems to me, in saying that autobiography is the only literature, I have finally achieved my writing of a novel. I am conversant with the events of my life and my motivations more than anyone else, with longer-term and immediate causes of those events, with the psychological motivations for my actions, with the most tortuous meanderings of my spirit and I often feel the need to suspend my story to go into the equally tortuous meanderings of analysis. I do this not so much to remind my readers of some ubiquitous wisdom that I may possess, but to give some socio-historical context to those events.

Like Freud I tend to the view that noone can really know or explain another man's life and especially “the riddle of the miraculous gift that makes an artist” and “the value and the effect of his works.” This is true ofdickens or anyone else.----Ron
Green Witch
Reply Wed 7 Jul, 2010 07:00 am
I am not a reader of Dickens either...My interest in Dickens is more biographical.
Huh? How can you understand Dickens without reading his books? It's like saying I want to write a biography about Picasso but I don't want to look at his art. Sorry, Ron, I read what you wrote, but you lost me - good luck.
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Reply Wed 7 Jul, 2010 07:38 am
As I say, Green Witch, my interest is in the man and his life. I take an interest in the lives of 100s of writers: novelists, historians, sociologists, economists, psychologists. There is just too much to read and one has to decide what aspects of the literary world that one wants to focus on....you focus on the novel; I focus on many other aspects of the social sciences and the humanities....to each their own.....and as you quote from Blake: "The essentials to happiness are something to love, something to do, and something to hope for." If you google my writings on the net you can see some of my literary,philosophical and biographical interests.-Ron
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Reply Tue 7 Feb, 2012 06:45 am
Since today is the 200th anniversary of Dickens' birth I'll post the following:

The great-great-granddaughter of the novelist Charles Dickens made some general and brief statements about friendships on the last page of her autobiography An Open Book(Heinemann, 1978, p.205). Monica Dickens wrote that most friendships in her life "lasted not much longer than the circumstances which created them." That seems logical enough, quite a common occurrence in society, for millions of people, I should think. She went on to say that "the permanent, lifetime friends who age with you" until you die do not need to be in your pocket all the time. It is enough for you to know they are there. Monica said that she found it impossible to write about these friends.

Reading this passage stimulated a desire to write a poem. For, it seems to me, there are many variations on this theme of friendship. The following poem, this prose-poem, was the result of my reflection on this theme. This piece of writing is one of the miscellany of my occasional poetic pieces, as the literary critic E.M. Forster might have called it.(2) My experience in writing is like that of the poet-philosopher John Ruskin: if a subject interests me, my primary impulse is to write about it.(1) -Ron Price with thanks to (1)Joan Abse, John Ruskin: The Passionate Moralist, Quartet Books, NY, 1980, p.12; and (2)Gloria Steinem, Moving Beyond Words, Bloomsbury, London, 1994, p.11.

Circumstantial Friendship:
We got on so well,
really into it.
We both liked baseball,
hockey and sport,
watched the football,
a small gang of us
growing up
in that little town,
but I moved away
and never saw
any of them again.

Family Friendship:
Blood ties brought us
together two or three times
every year, part of the air
we all breathed in that family.
Then I moved away
and never saw them all
ever again, except in letters.

Lifetime Friends:
I've got their names
in my address book,
dozens of people
spread over two continents.
I could write about them
and I do occasionally.

They're not there
when I want them.
They're too far away,
most of them, anyway.
But we'd all have
heart to hearts if we met,
at least I like to think so.
But we won't, not now,
just a few nearby, but
that's enough for my life.

Immortal Friends:
In the Undiscovered Country
new and old friends,
where we refresh
with the crystalline wine cup
at the camphor fountain,
far beyond this darksome,
narrow world in the land
of lights and mercies
pressed down, running over.(1)

(1) 'Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, Baha'i Pub. Trust, Wilmette, 1970(1928),p.105.

Ron Price
14 February 2002

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Reply Tue 7 Feb, 2012 05:52 pm
The first lines of that opening post in this thread should read "from the 1950s through to the 1990s" not "the 1960s."-Ron
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Reply Wed 8 Feb, 2012 10:37 pm
I had to add that last line, that last post in this thread, since I was unable to edit my first post. Editing at this site is only allowed for a short time after posting.
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