Dear Mr. Dickens,
It’s a blustery, grey Thanksgiving Monday as I write to you – the perfect day to be curled up on the couch with a cat on my lap and the first volume of The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club nearly finished. It seems like a good juncture to pause and write to you: Mr. Jingle, the source of much consternation, embarrassment and anger, has been exposed as a fraud in Ipswich (although less dramatically then either I or Mr. Pickwick would have wished), and Mr. Pickwick himself is preparing to return to his friends at Dingley Dell while anticipating his upcoming lawsuit brought against him by his former landlady.
I was anticipating this book to be more along the lines of your Sketches, as a collection of unrelated short stories, but there is a central cast of characters, and one episode flows into the next in a loosely connected narrative. It reminds me of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford (or perhaps her book should remind me of Pickwick, since hers was published after yours, and in a magazine for which you were the editor! It’s a small world, indeed).
I should stop being so surprised every time I read a description of a person or place and burst out laughing, since it happens so often – I really need to get over my original perception of you as some stuffy, serious dead guy. But while I’m really enjoying Pickwick, I have to ask you why you interrupt the narrative every so often to have one of your characters suddenly launch into a story of their own? It’s not that they’re badly written, but they do pull the reader out of the comfortable world you’ve created, and it’s difficult to see a purpose in them, other than as little nuggets of morality, since they don’t impact the course of the main narrative. It’s like finding a piece of bacon in a pumpkin pie – bacon is great, but in context a bit off-putting (or maybe I’ve just stumbled across the next great culinary fad).
Anyway, I shall continue to follow the delightful Mr. Pickwick and his friends, and until we next chat I shall remain