Poker in Paris

[Coming into the blog-room rather late in the day like an ill-prepared tutorial student] “Like, what Pete said!”

No, honestly, there’s little to add, but my thanks. I’m just disappointed that Barsad doesn’t actually challenge Carton to explain which poker variant they’re playing (I believe there are some major differences between draw, stud, and ‘Texas hold ’em). Or is it a non-mock-heroic game of Ombre, with all the players bidding for trumps?

Sydney is certainly filling El Hombre’s boots, drinking liquor heroically (from that tiny glass).

Forgive me if this seems a digression, but, having forgotten my turn to post an ‘instigator’ installment of our blog today, and gone through the common variety of emotions from guilt to a general sense of annoyance at a Duty forgot, I suddenly glimpsed what it may have been like for the Big D, to have had the weekly responsibility of carrying the whole show (not just the serial itself but the whole All the Year Round enterprise) week in week out for such a stretch of time. I can barely remember April, when we started out: it’s most of this YEAR, isn’t it?

Admittedly, by October 1859, the writing of ATOTC was all sown up: the composition completed, apparently, on 4th October, and then on 6th he has that important letter to Wilkie Collins, distinguishing between his friend’s manner of presenting revelations in ‘too elaborately trapped, baited and prepared’ a fashion (harsh?!) and his own more, well, divine methods: “I think the business of Art us to lay all that ground carefully, but with the care that conceals itself [ars est celare artem–gosh a concealed arty reference! Will Wilkie get it? Surely yes, admiringly]–to shew, by a backward light, what everything has been working to–but only to SUGGEST [in capitals, mind], until the fulfilment comes. These are the ways of Providence–of which all Art is but a little imitation’

Lofty stuff, suggestive of Someone resting after a mighty labour of Creation. But, even so, there was still the weekly schedule of making up the weekly number, and then Proofing. I found about 6 errors lurking in DJO’s version of this week’s installment (perhaps a higher count than in previous weeks–what do you think?) and felt vaguely responsible: but thanks to the infinitely provisional nature of online editing, was able to remove them in 5 minutes. Back then, presumably, it could involve a last-minute panic and rush of marked-up galley proofs over to the printers….

Anyhow, don’t want to labour the point. But what a weight it must have been, and what a relief–is it almost palpable in the gathering pace and sense that Providence has arranged a long rest for everyone?–to feel that the home straight was in sight, and everyone would get disposed of.

I recall some critic or other writing about the mighty sweep of Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago that the first half is dedicated to giving an impression of the teeming multitude of Russia and the disconnectedness of everything, while the second–almost reneging on this worldview–carefully links up all the specks in the snow. Coincidences abound. There’s something of that going on as we hurtle to the not-too-but-quite-carefully-baited trap of the finale, when everyone will have to hold hands and take a bow.

I’ll be on my feet. Will you?

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4 thoughts on “Poker in Paris

  1. What’s great about the card game is it gets right to the heart of poker – everyone always says that poker has less to do with the cards and is all about the players, so for Carton to play a game without any cards at all is the ultimate bluff. Admittedly, it would have been less impressive if they’d played a theoretical game of “snap”, but still, it’s a fairly cool moment.

    There’s definitely a sense that dickens is now at the point that he wants to be – some of the previous instalments have either felt like he’s rushing through plots to get to a particular point, or worse, slowing the pace down and stalling for time, but there’s a definite sense of cohesion now (kind of like the last three months of a PhD when you finally realise what it is you’ve been researsching all that time).

    I’d be really interested to read Great Expecatations again with this experience in mind. My memory of it is as a fantastic book, but then I read it much quicker than a 32 week time period. Has our criticism of ATOTC at times been a result of reading it in segments and taking that time to focus on it in such detail, or did Dickens himself learn and adapt his style over the course of this, to then master it in Great Expectations?

    • On the subject of rushes to the printers, I’m frequently appalled at how many typos I spot in my own comments – almost immediately upon posting that I’ve seen two. Dickens would be infuriated.

    • I definitely think it would be interesting to replicate what we have done here with other novels. A Tale of Two Cities almost seems like a completely different novel me to now. I have looked at Great Expectations in its weekly parts (although not exactly on a week to week basis) and I do think it is more fitted to the purpose. There is almost always something fresh with each new part yet the instalments follow on from each other in a much more cohesive way. There is less to tax the reader in terms of changes of time and place. It is only towards the end after Magwitch returns that it lags slightly. That is my impression anyway. It would be good to see if others agreed!

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