I just read a novel by Gene Wolfe in which he takes what could easily have been a typical action-packed genre story and flips it upside down. He cuts away from every scene that has action. The novel is almost entirely constructed of the conversations that the characters have before and after what would have been the scenes of high drama. I found it quite frustrating until I understood what he was doing.
As to the critique in Bleak House, things haven't really changed so much. One of my patients is indeed involved in an inheritance case that has drawn on for years. Several have been waiting for years to have a judge review their denied Disability claims--patients who have no money and are clearly disabled to work. The drug addict son of another patient was on probation. He was caught with Xanax in his pocket, which he had been prescribed. He spent almost a year in jail because he had no recourse to any sort of judicial hearing, even though he was in perfectly legal possession of the pill. The legal system is broken here and now. I'm certain that it is still broken in England as well. I don't really think that it amused Dickens any more than my patient's plights amuse me.
The quote from Flaubert only suggests to me that the author shouldn't actually tell you how to think and feel. He should instead manipulate you from behind the scenes. This has, of course, become the dominant style of fiction for more than a century. It is now so much of a cliché that I find that I love Tom Jones exactly because the author is so present. The contrast is refreshing.
Well anyway, I too wish to see and feel. But the books that have had the most profound effect on me have become a part of my own inner life--not just my feelings, but my thoughts as well.
: Who can read Bleak House and miss the
: criticism of the British legal system?
: I suppose a person who only sees a rather
: amusing fictional legal system that provides
: dramatic situations for the characters.
: There must have been people who disagreed
: with Dickens's vision as a portrayal of the
: actual courts. And I don't seriously imagine
: is portrayal was so very true to life
: either. No doubt they did ridiculous things
: as all organizations do, but I think Dickens
: would have chosen the ones he found most
: amusing, left out other, exaggerated,
: invented, and so on and so forth. And
: however accurate it might have been, the
: court must have been so different within
: fifty years as to make any intended
: commentary completely irrelevant, and while
: many readers today may note the idea, nobody
: cares about it because the world it might
: have had a connection to is long gone.
: I do think however that there's something
: you might call a commentary which I would
: not. Of course reading the trials and
: experiences of characters makes you think of
: your own trials and experiences, your own
: life, but I wouldn't call that commentary.
: The (essential?) feeling that yes life is
: like this need not involve a commentary.
: When I read, I want to see and feel with the
: characters. If someone is dying of cancer, I
: want to see and feel what that's like for
: them and the other characters. I want to
: feel their frustration in dealing with the
: healthcare system, not to think about how
: much the healthcare system is in need of
: change. At some point, it will have changed
: (I hope) and such commentary would be
: irrelevant, but what would be left is the
: interest of seeing how people feel in a
: certain dramatic situation.
: I don't know. It's just how I feel, how I
: read, so I do enjoy finding quotes that seem
: to support it. Flaubert said the writer
: should be like God, present everywhere but
: visible nowhere. Therefore, we shouldn't be
: able to tell if Atwood wanted to say
: anything about Fundamentalism. Joyce said
: much the same thing. I don't think Atwood
: minds much if people read things into her
: work, but I have to believe she aspires to
: the ideals of Flaubert and Joyce.
: By the way, I do think Dickens intended the
: critique. I think we must do him the favor
: of forgetting about that.
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