September 03, 2008

TBR3: A Tale of Two Cities

Are you reading?
Chapters 1-3

A Tale of Two Cities even smells classic, which probably has more to do with the age of this paperback, and the length of time since it's been opened than anything else... but, I digress! The book opens with the most famous Dickensian lines, quoted badly by nearly everybody. A lot of people like to wax eloquent on "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," but few people have actually noticed that Dickens was being fairly ironic. His next few passages indicate that the world was simply not that great, either in France or in England. On the night the Dover mail comes up the hill, in the muck and mire, the passengers on-foot, highwaymen are feared when a message comes for a man named Mr. Lorry of Tellson's bank. The message he receives, and the reply he sends to the soaked and harried courier are confusing, but deliciously mysterious.

Even more confusing is the following chapter, where the message is debated. Could someone really have been buried -- for eighteen years -- and recalled to life?

All of this is couched in Dickens' lyrical prose, sometimes mouthfuls of words, sometimes shorter sentences, which might come as a relief if one is lost in his perambulations. I enjoy the way he plays with words, and the way that the story is furled up tightly and anonymously in this storyteller's cant. You won't know anything -- plot, characters, motivation -- until he's ready to tell you. In the hands of a master storyteller, one can simply enjoy the spooling out the prose as the tale is revealed.

1 comment:

Saints and Spinners said...

This was the first high school play I ever acted in. (As one of four Narrators, I was the Queen of England who had the "It was the worst of times" counter-point speech, a Lord, and some revolutionary who announced "The hour has come!") I read the book, too, but I don't think I quite got it. Still, as you say, "one can simply enjoy the spooling out the prose as the tale is revealed."