Saturday, July 5, 2008

Two Good Books

Recently, I finished reading two good books: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens two Sundays ago, and the seventh Harry Potter yesterday. (As a side note about the Harry Potter books: I've met a third person who refuses to read the books out of "principle." The principle seems to be simple stubbornness, though some argue literary quality; all seem to eschew bandwagonness.)

I'd like to try a technique I learned from past English classes by comparing and contrasting the two books:

Analyzing the data from this comparison, you will probably reach the same conclusion I have: the days between August 2006 and June 2008 had less hours than the now-typical 24 we've been experiencing for the past couple weeks. That's why it took me so long to finish David Copperfield. In some ways, I feel like I was reading in real-time as David grew up :)

But it seems silly to me to compare the two books. Yes, they're both British, take place in London, involve a crummy-step-parented orphan boy who can make things magically disappear. But beyond that, I see little resemblance. They don't even have the same name!

Comparisons aside, I enjoyed both of them thoroughly. I recommend the Potter books as good, easy entertainment–they're fun. And I recommend Copperfield as good, laborious entertainment. As I've written before, I enjoy boring things–though "boring" is perhaps the wrong term: quiet, unpretentious, slow are probably more apt adjectives. David Copperfield was definitely that, loaded with details of surroundings, situations, people and thoughts, it's the kind of book you can leave to the dust, then pick up and continue a few weeks later.

Dickens is also a lot more thoughtful... less Roman, more Greek. Here are a few of my favorite gems:

From the financially unsound Mr. Micawber: "My advice is, never do to-morrow what you can do to-day. Procrastination is the thief of time; -- collar him."

David reflecting on his own life:
"I have never believed it possible that any natural or improved ability can claim immunity from the companionship of the steady, plain, hard-working qualities, and hope to gain its end. There is no such thing as such fulfillment on this earth. Some happy talent, and some fortunate opportunity, may form the two sides of the ladder on which some men mount, but the rounds of that ladder must be made of stuff to stand wear and tear; and there is no substitute for thorough-going, ardent, and sincere earnestness. Never to put one hand to anything, on which I could throw my whole self, and never to affect depreciation of my work, whatever it was, I find, now, to have been my golden rules."

And his descriptions about loving the women he loved at various times are spot-on. This one, in which David has built up the courage to give flowers to Dora, can be likened to asking a girl out on a date: "I had had an intention of saying (and had been studying the best form of words for three miles) that I thought them beautiful before I saw them so near her. But I could n't manage it. She was too bewildering. To see her lay the flowers against her little dimpled chin, was to lose all presence of mind and power of language in feeble ecstasy. I wonder I did n't say, 'Kill me, if you have a heart, Miss Mills. Let me die here!'"

Thank heavens for good books!

I know I don't really read wordy posts, and I don't expect anyone else to, so here's another picture to look at. I took it at the parade yesterday:


Liz said...

I always mean to read David Copperfield, but never seem to get around to it...

I am of a mind that the Harry Potter thing is just silly--if someone recommends a book to you and says it's great, then read it--who cares if only 1 or 1,000,000,000 other people have read it? Some people...I think that people just don't read them so that they can have something interesting to say at parties and such.

Did Harry Potter change my life? Of course not. But it was entertaining, easy to read, and enjoyable. I try not to intentionally shy away from enjoyable things if at all possible.

Dan said...

For the record, I am of the opinion that the Harry Potter films were much better than the books. You've read that right. HP Movies are significantly better than the books.

And you're right Matt. Not too much comparisons to be made between David Copperfield and Harry Potter. Though it is curious you read them at the same time. Maybe you would read David Copperfield, then read Harry Potter to off-set the depressing and heavy emotions only Dickens can bring? Not a bad strategy.

Miri said...

nice work! and speak of the devil (which is why i had to comment)-- mike was flipping through the channels and just as i was reading your post, he landed on harry potter and the prisoner of azkaban. good movie.
anyway. so have you just read the seventh one or did you read the whole series? i love them so much.
also, congrats on reading david copperfield. i actually own a few dickens books, but i have yet to read any of them. not even the christmas carol, which is so short! good work.

Megs said...

I know what you mean about boring things yet again - I just finished East of Eden and felt so calm and fulfilled whenever I was reading it, even though nothing earth shattering was happening in the book. It was just lovely, solid, deep literature. I always read things like Harry Potter in a frenzy, which is also fun, but not quite the same.
Someday, David Copperfield.

Barbaloot said...

First off-I still have those shoes you gave me!! That was one of the best presents ever:)
Second-I get more comments on my feet and the fact that I buy shoes in the little kids section than on my being short...
Third-I'm anti 'Harry Potter' but I will admit that it is mostly because I'm stubborn.
I'm anti 'David Copperfied' because I hated Great Expectations and have been mad at Dickens ever since.
I'm not very mature when it comes to things literature-related:)

Lacking Productivity said...

I agree with you on the "principle" people. Actually many experts agree that the series is will be one of the cannon-makers of our era...though I think that is a little extreme...they are a legit, good read.

Matt said...

Liz, just start it, you'll finish eventually. (And Dan and Barb... not all of Dickens' books are like Great Expectations, except that they all involve orphans it seems)

Miri, just the seventh -- I was waiting to finish David Copperfield before read it (an incentive to finish the Dickens)

ibscrubbin52 said...

lol yes, i am the third stubborn one. and perhaps it is a bandwagon. are bandwagons so bad?

you are still coming to yoga with me, i won't let you forget. and i highly recommend tale of two cities. i will read copperfield if you read that one. do we have an accord sweet one?

Matt said...

yes, I'll still come to yoga (a promise is a promise).

And I just started Les Miserables... so Tale of Two Cities will have to wait, but only just a bit -- I think it will go quickly.

Liz said...

I'm trying to imagine you doing yoga, and I can't see it...

I think you need to take some pictures and post them so that we can all see. :)

Liz said...

I was just looking at some pictures of some friends in the new ward where I'm moving in the fall, and you're in some of them! You and Jason McGee show up in a few of them...

Do you know Natalie Halladay, or Janelle Noall, or Shane Loveland? They're the ones I know in the looks like a big party though, (christmas? New years?) so maybe you don't actually know them, but small world, huh? I had to pause and think, wait a minute...whose pictures am I looking at??