A miscellany of Bleak House things

Dear Charlie,

Verdi turns 200 this year!

My correspondence has been interrupted of late, but having just celebrated your bicentenary, I know you won’t begrudge similar celebrations for another genius who’s celebrating his own 200th birthday this year: Giuseppe Verdi. I’ve been rehearsing for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra’s upcoming performance of Verdi’s Requiem. This means that while I have a lot of time to read before rehearsals, it doesn’t give me a lot of time to write to you. But if you didn’t get a chance to hang with your Italian compatriot during your lifetimes, you should float your ghostly self to the Jack Singer concert hall this weekend and check it out. I’ll keep an eye out for ectoplasm.

So, I finally finished Bleak House, which had, I’m happy to say, a thoroughly satisfying ending, as well as a couple more unfortunate but fairly predictable deaths (but how many people can die from lawsuit fatigue, really? I didn’t even know that was a thing). And while I know that some people consider Esther a bit of an annoying goody-goody, she’s got nothing on John Jarndyce. Seriously. Let’s just put ourselves in his head for a moment, shall we?

Oh, hello young, attractive doctor returned from overseas. What? You still love Esther? Well, yes, I love her too and am actually engaged to her. But you know what? I’m pretty old and unsuitable, so even though she’s happily preparing for our wedding, why don’t I just go ahead and give her to you without talking to her about it. That wouldn’t be weird at all. No no, I’ll be fine and happy just watching you two be happy. Really.

Uh huh. Cuz that would totally happen, Charlie.

Anyway, before I leave Bleak House, I wanted to show you some of the more entertaining pictures I found on the internet while searching for images more appropriate to the civilized tone of these letters.

This has to be one of the most obscure “Keep Calm” variants I’ve ever seen:

And I’ve been saving this one for months:

This cat picture isn’t as random as it might seem. I think LOL cats would be right up your alley, since I also found a picture of a letter opener of yours (housed at the New York Public Library), ornamented with a cat’s paw:

Engraved on the handle: “C.D. In Memory of Bob 1862”

A good luck rabbit’s foot is creepy, but a well known talisman. Is a cat’s paw a similar thing? At first I was envisioning scenarios where this creature spent one too many nights howling on your fence before you pegged it with a rock, until I found out it belonged to your own beloved cat, Bob. At least you didn’t stuff all of him, like you did with your raven, Grip. I’m a little disturbed, I admit, but very happy to know you’re a fellow cat person.

Anyway, I’ve just started Hard Times. Seeing as this is the first single-volume novel you’ve written since Oliver Twist, I’m interested to see how something half your usual length impacts your style. Also, I’ll hopefully have a chance to get a little caught up with my self-imposed schedule.

Hope you can make the concert this weekend. You should find Verdi and go together. I’ll watch for two sets of ghostly footprints in the lobby. Heck, bring Bob too.

Affectionately yours,


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