Great expectations and the MacArthur Genius Grants


so every post has to have a picture and that is me and Rita going down the kid’s slide.


Re-reading Great Expectations with a feeling of disappointment in the limp-celery I-forgot-it-in-the-back-of-the-refrigerator main character Pip. He never does anything when all sorts of doable options lie about him. He never makes anything happen. Everything he tries elegantly fails.

What makes all of Dickens’ books for me are the secondary characters and GE has a good plenty of them but Pip drags the narrative behind him carelessly and limply like a trailing raincoat. I never noticed it before. The book is an object lesson in the awfulness of class snobbery which is awful of course but Pip seems to have an infinite capacity to endure boring people. Dickens wants us to see how flattened these people are. Okay, okay. He should have made Trabb’s boy the central character and we could have understood the Awfulness Of Class Snobbery by giving one chapter to Pip. Miss Havisham is BORING, Estella has no redeeming qualities and is equally as boring, and I wished somebody would shoot Pumblechook or send him to the Hulks.

What saves it is the atmosphere of the marshes, that of London, the details of things, the shipping in the Thames, their journey down the Thames . An alive world.

Read an article by Thomas Frank in Salon on the MacArthur Genius grants that had me laughing out loud. He points out the winners as ‘prize magnets’ and listed the buzzwords of admiration and approbation with which the awarders describe the work of the awardees; ‘contemporary’ — ‘experimental’ — ‘original’ — ‘innovative’ — ‘insight’ — alternative’ — ‘vibrant’ — ‘rooted’. The awardees ‘redefine’ and ‘reinvent’.