lyricism in hot pursuit of story: film at eleven

[asa book]0060534222[/asa] There are dozens of novels that take Jane Austen’s characters onward past the end of her novels to imagine what happens next. The same has been done for Heathcliff, and for the crazed Mrs. Rochester in Bronte’s fictional attic.

I’m sure there must be   authors who have taken Dickens and his characters for a ride, but I just can’t think of any. As far as I am aware, Mr. Timothy is the first onward telling (as opposed to retelling) of the fate of one of Dickens’ characters.

A Christmas Carol is one of those stories that will live on because it strikes a chord, and people feel a strong need to tell and retell it. It’s a universally satisfying theme: the mean guy gets taught a lesson. (Hmmmm, I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to retell ACC  again. One of those greedy Wall Street CEOs would be a good object  for scroogification.) ACC has been retoled countless times with Scrooge as the focus, and as far as I’m aware, storytellers have been content to leave him capering around on Christmas morning bestowing his new-found largesse on Bob Cratchett’s family.

And then Louis Bayard came along and plucked Tiny Tim from the shadows. The frail little boy who would have died but for Scrooge’s reformed character, in Bayard’s novel Tim has grown up and he’s in fairly stable health. He’s also got intelligence and curiosity and imagination, and he’s living in Dickens’ London.  Bayard had a good idea, and he ran with it.

I will write a review when I’ve finished Mr. Timothy, but for right now I just wanted to point out (as I have before, but the point bears repeating) that lyrical language and good story are not mutually exclusive goals. There is a ripping big plot in this novel worthy of Dickens, and dozens of sharply drawn characters. But there is also Tim, who  tells his story in his own voice, and oh, does he tell it well. An example:

Smiling is something of a foreign language for old Otterbourne, and so once he has made a token stab in that direction, his face realigns itself into the shell I have  come to know tolerably well.  He is the sort of man who absorbs light without ever imparting it.

These observations are never loud or distracting, which is a matter of some craftsmanship. It’s very easy to trumpet a big message, but Bayard understands the power of subtlety. And still, there are images here that will stay with me for a long time, such as Tim thinking about pain and the way it slides down the banister of his bones.

I look forward to the rest of Tim’s story with great anticipation.

7 Replies to “lyricism in hot pursuit of story: film at eleven”

  1. I don’t know of any Dickens sequels in the manner of the various Austen or Bronte continuations, but Miss Havisham from Great Expectations is an important character in two of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books.

    1. Oh yes, Jasper Fforde… thanks for reminding me. He has made a career out of inviting characters out to play.

  2. Neat. That is thought-provoking: characters spilling over from other novels into their own.

    1. It’s not so very unusual for characters to wander from novel to novel, or at least it doesn’t seem that way to me. But then I’m especially interested in such comings and goings and I pay special attention. There’s a whole subgenre in historical fiction where a peripheral fictional character tells a story about prominent or scandalous (or both) persons from the past.

      But when I try to sort it out, I get a headache. I’ll try again tomorrow.

  3. I seem to recall my joy and excitement as I was first reading “Into the Wilderness” and came upon the passage that mentions two of my favorite characters from a book ever. It was wonderful to hear about Jamie and Claire (and Ian too if I recall correctly) in a different book. They intertwine so wonderfully in the books as they are in the same time period (for now, for if you’ve read any Outlander stories by Diana Gabaldon then you know that they may not be there for long) It is nice that my two most favorite authors are connected in some way. It’s the small things that make me happy!

  4. ‘Mr. Timothy’ is one of my favorites and I keep trying to get more people to read it. There is something about that period that I love. Louis Bayard has done a masterful job and also in linking it to the tried and true ‘Christmas Carol’. This is also why I love Gregory Maguire’s books, but especially ‘Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister.’ I love how Maguire turns these old worn tales on their ears, placing them so wonderfully in a historical period, and bringing us closer to a different truth of the tale.

    I’m catching up on your blog…haven’t been on for a while. Hope you are well – just bought Pajama yesterday.

  5. @Jody Pineda:

    I was just recently wondering about you and where you had disappeared to. Please let me know what you think of the Pajama Girls.

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