Friday, November 11, 2005

Bleak House

The Beeb's Bleak House is excellent.

It gets plaudits from me, from Rullsenberg and from Norm.

Here's a sourpuss article explaining why this guy is not watching. There's always someone, somewhere. That's not to say Philip Hensher has a big nose just that his ill-informed witterings make Mrs Honeyman seem like a paper of record.
Catriona Davies said that "to those who have ploughed through all 1,088 pages of Charles Dickens's novel Bleak House, it may seem like an unlikely book to be transformed into a populist drama".

Not having seen any of it, I can't say, but it seems very unlikely that this dramatisation adds to the quality of the greatest novel in the English language. For a start, I've heard that there is no fog to be seen anywhere, which seems rather like filming Moby Dick without the sea. Vegas is surely rather adventurous casting for a character who is 76 years old, described on first appearance as "short, cadaverous and withered."

And one hears that Mrs Pardiggle has been left out altogether. Frankly, a Bleak House that leaves out Mrs Pardiggle, and above all, the five- year-old Alfred Pardiggle, that most unwilling contributor to the Infant Bonds of Joy, is not a Bleak House I have any great desire to watch. Of course, he, and about a hundred others, contribute hardly anything to the plot, but what else can be left out? Prince Turveydrop? Volumnia Dedlock? The Military Bassoonist? Mr Chadband's reflection, saying grace, that without "refreshment" "our legs would refuse to bear us, our knees would double up, our ankles would turn over"?

The main reason for not watching this dramatisation, or, in fact, any dramatisation of Bleak House ever again is that one knows one would sit there with gritted teeth waiting for some magnificently unnecessary moment, groaning with pain at its omission or suffering an only temporary relief. Does it, for instance, include that incomparable passage, Krook's list of the names of Miss Flite's 25 pet birds: "Hope, Joy, Youth, Peace, Rest, Life, Dust, Ashes, Waste, Want, Ruin, Despair, Madness, Death, Cunning, Folly, Words, Wigs, Rags, Sheepskin, Plunder, Precedent, Jargon, Gammon and Spinach?" It seems fairly unlikely; but, really, I just don't want to know.
Yes, it does. Every point Hensher makes about things missing from Bleak House is based on hearsay. Hensher knows someone who knows someone who was jogging past someone's house when they noticed Bleak House on telly and there was no Mrs Pardiggle. It's time Hensher found things out for himself rather than relying on the ill-informed gossip of others.

Can I start the campaign to make wilful ignorance a crime?

As Tony Kushner writes of Maurice Sendak
Maurice is a child of the Great Depression and of Jewish Depression, if I may generalise. Jewish Depression is that inherited awareness of the arduousness of knowing God, the arduousness of knowing anything, an acute awareness of the struggle to know, the struggle against not knowing; and it is that enduring sense of displacement, yearning for and not securely possessing a home. Maurice's is a Yiddische kopf, a large, brooding, circumspect and contemplative mind, darkened by both fatalism and faith.
The "arduousness of knowing anything, an acute awareness of the struggle to know, the struggle against not knowing" is, if not universal, at least something I identify with.

Is Philip Hensher interested in where the wild things are?

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