Sunday, May 13, 2012

In which I manage to compare my life with a Dickens work and reveal a 38-year-long hang up. (Sundays with the Classics)

I didn't actually read very much of Great Expectations this week.  It was a busy week, and during the week I mostly read Michael Offutt's Slipstream, which is a remarkable book and I'm only about 1/4 of the way through it.

But Sundays are reserved for the classics.  On Sundays, I read nothing that is not the classic I'm currently reading. I don't read the news, my email, my Twitter account (much?) or anything else -- nothin' but classics. But even with that I didn't read much today because it's Mother's Day and my 12th anniversary.  Sweetie and I celebrated the anniversary Friday, getting babysitters and heading out to see The Avengers, about which more later, and left today for Mother's Day-ing, and amidst getting her brunch and presents and the older kids taking her to a movie and all going for a walk together on the nature trail I also moved our old furniture into the family room and the family room furniture into the garage to make way for the new furniture we bought on sale yesterday as an anniversary present for us, and then I had a water fight with Mr F and Mr Bunches.

That all seems to have not much to do with the classic and Great Expectations in particular, but the part of the book I'm at is where Pip has gotten to London and had dinner with Herbert, who is the pale young gentleman

that was the kid Pip had a fight with at Miss Havisham's, and Pip has also met Matthew Pocket and watched that man's peculiar habit of trying to lift himself up by his own hair (and also has met the hilariously incompetent Mrs Pocket) and has had dinner with Wemmick and dinner with Mr Jaggers and otherwise has just been whiling away the time in London doing not much of anything.

(Like me, today, see?)

The part where Pip has dinner with Wemmick is one of my all-time favorite scenes in books.  I'd completely forgotten about Stinger, although I never forgot Aged Parent, or Aged P, as Wemmick likes to call him.  I have a vivid memory of 10th grade English class, when we read Great Expectations, and Mr. Schaefer, my teacher, would read aloud the parts and imitate Aged P, nodding his head and grinning and encouraging us to love this book as much as Mr. Schaefer loved it.

And it worked.

I was talking today with Sweetie about the things we remember and how they have shaped us.  In our discussion, I was talking specifically about how in kindergarten I was never chosen to be the "best napper," the person who got to end his nap first and wake everyone else up.  You would think the honor would rotate... but no.  You would think that if wasn't just 'everyone gets a turn' then the criteria for being the best napper would be explained ("work on this a bit, Briane, and then maybe you'll get picked next week")... but no.

I was just never the best napper


And I haven't forgotten that in 38 years, and, as I said to Sweetie, it has shaped me, I'm sure, in ways I can scarcely contemplate (other than that I both long to have the time to take a nap and then, when I do have the time, such as today, I don't actually nap but instead do something like move furniture around all afternoon including a piano which: a piano is very hard to move and moreso if you are trying to move it while watching out for Mr and Mr Bunches.)

Other things I have not forgotten include Mr. Schaefer imitating Aged P, and certain parts of Pip's lollygagging in London, including in particular Mr Jaggers' habit of washing his hands vigorously after his work is finished -- washing his hands of his clients.  He literally washes away the grime of his job.  Wemmick, on the other hand, doesn't speak of work at the Castle, and doesn't speak of the Castle at work -- he separates those two things, especially.

As for me? I don't take work home, hardly ever.  I will stay late at the office, if I can -- but I try to never work from home. 

One might think that's maybe a carryover from when I read about Jaggers and his clerk Wemmick in the 10th grade, but it's actually that I just get to distracted to work at home and I'm not very productive there.

On the other hand, for a while, when I began practicing law, I did give some thought to imitating the way Jaggers would throw his finger at people to get them to crack.  I never mastered it, though.


Andrew Leon said...

I don't really have time to make the kind of comment I'd like to at the moment, but I was just reading about how the fiction we read shapes us as people. They've given it the term "experience taking," if I'm remembering correctly. Anyway... as it turns out, it's very important what we read especially what we read when we're young.

I suppose I should be a dinosaur...

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

I would also wonder what the criteria for best napper is. Are you awarded style points for how you position yourself? Is it who looks the deepest asleep? I sense a conspiracy.

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