This book is a massive read: what my children might call “a beast” of a book. But that’s one of its pleasures, I find. Lurking at the back of my mind, day in and day out, is this alternate universe, mine to enter whenever I choose. Probably one of the enduring pleasures of my life, when I think about it, this confidence that current conditions can always be eluded with the help of fiction.
I’m in the Bernie Madoff section. Both Dickens and Trollope, I knew, had these characters, these shady banker/swindlers whose actions in the market corrupt the populace as a whole. What’s eerie is the extent to which Mr. Merdle prefigures Madoff. Here he is, pretending to try not to accept Mr. Dorrit’s fortune to invest: “It would not,… be at the present moment easy for what I may call a mere outsider to come into any of the good things — of course I speak of my own good things –…” He goes on like this for a few sentences, and adds that in these transactions “there must be the purest faith between man and man; there must be unimpeached and unimpeachable confidence…” Yup. That’s how it works.
But then, in all sincerity, Dickens also gives us poor little Amy Dorrit talking about really loving a man: “If you loved any one, you would no more be yourself, but you would quite lose and forget yourself in your devotion to him.” Thank heaven that mode of thought has changed.