Of parentage and pork chops

Dear Charlie,

You know how you said, “It was one of those March days, where “it is summer in the light and winter in the shade”? Well, here in Calgary it’s April, there’s no sun, and it is winter wherever you look. Good thing I have some Bleak House to make my weekend more enjoyable. And speaking of your wonderful book, two things have happened recently that have caught my particular attention.

Esther and Caddy

Firstly, there was that bombshell of Esther’s parentage revealed in a single cry, which hasn’t been made reference to since (granted, I’m not very much further along in the story). There was always a certain degree of mystery about Esther’s past, but I had sort of assumed that the great secret would be kept until a properly dramatic part of the book’s climax. I was a bit disconcerted by the abrupt reveal at first, but upon reflection, now that only one character and your readers know the truth, I’m looking forward to some deliciously tense moments, and finding how Esther comes to learn of the secret (I’m assuming she will, dear girl, and that she won’t die of smallpox, or whatever illness currently has her bedridden).

As sweet as Esther is, and as interesting as it has been having her story in the first person, while the others are in the third (I’m guessing you found the voice you established in David Copperfield a touch confining when it came to secondary plots and characters), she and her crew are a pretty boring lot, especially now that Richard’s gone off soldiering. That’s not a bad thing – Caddy’s wedding preparations were a wonderful demonstration of Esther’s good nature and good sense, and it was nice to see poor Caddy get out from under her mother’s complete fanaticism.

Much more exciting is the second development. So far, your characters have died off in a variety of colorful ways, when they haven’t wasted away for dramatic effect. I had thought that Mr. Carker’s fabulously gruesome dismemberment under the wheels of a train was the crowning achievement of your inner executioner, but I was wrong.

Spontaneous human combustion.

Holy crap.

Well, that’s one way to liven up a story!

I have to hand it to you, Charlie. I didn’t see that one coming. And now it will be seared into my brain forever. Burnt pork chops indeed. You’re kind of a sick puppy, you know that? I didn’t even think such a phenomenon was prevalent in your day, or would be well enough known to warrant having a character die from it. But after looking into it, it appears that there were a number of previous cases that you were familiar with. The fact that you singled out a relatively minor character is puzzling, especially one whose karmic balance of evil wouldn’t seem to single him out for such a death! I truly hope that there’s some kind of significance to his being offed in such a spectacular manner, and presumably in taking those mysterious papers with him.

Mystery piles upon mystery. How will Esther discover her parentage? What happened to poor little Jo? What’s Tulkinghorn up to? How does George factor in to the thickening plot? Will Snagsby confess his secrets to his overly suspicious wife? What’s Guppy’s part in all of this? And why the hell did you feel the need to have someone immolate themselves?

Now that I’m on to the second volume, I’m sure all things will be revealed. In the meantime, I raise a glass to your dark side, Mr. D.

I remain,

Affectionately yours,


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