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Jack Maggs
by Peter Carey

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As a novelist, Peter Carey is hardly a stranger to the 19th century: his Oscar and Lucinda was a veritable treasure-trove of Victoriana. In this novel, however, Carey has set himself an even more complicated task--reimagining not only a vanished era but one of that era's masterpieces. Jack Maggs is a variation on Great Expectations, in which Dickens's tale is told from the viewpoint of Australian convict Abel Magwitch. The names, it's true, have been tinkered with, but the book's literary paternity is unmistakable. So, too, is the postcolonial spin that Carey puts on Dickens's material: this time around, the prodigal Maggs is perceived less as an invading alien than a righteous (if not particularly welcome) refugee.
 


Topic: Jack Maggs (1 of 12), Read 36 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Bob Markiewicz (bobmarkiewicz@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, March 01, 2000 04:36 AM On 2/29/00 6:01:05 PM, Ann Davey wrote: >My most recent life >interrupter is Jack Maggs, the >Constant Reader >March selection. Once I >started, I just could not put >this down. The >author character in the book >is obviously supposed to >represent Charles >Dickens. The other characters >represent "real life" people >who became >the author's model for the >characters in a book he later >wrote, very >similar toGreat Expectations. >It is especially fun if you >have just finished >GR, but it's quite a page >turner in its own right. Being as Ann was kind enough to start in on a bit early on this one, does anyone mind if I move it over here and make my own comments?I assume y'all can ignore us and join in when you're reading? There are no spoilers here; nonetheless, proceed at your own risk. I am halfway through, Ann. I loved the first fifty pages, found JM dark and quite witty. But when Jack takes up residence in the house, the hypnosis begins and he has to take action in the house, I'm feeling that Carey has lost control and it's a lot less interesting and more forced and really having to push myself now. This is not exactly a hardship. Yet. I did abandon Joyce Carol Oates BLONDE for this, though, as I was crawling through it and very unhappy about it. I HATE it when my reading slows down, as I usually crank them out 2 - 3 a week. BOB
Topic: Jack Maggs (2 of 12), Read 36 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Wednesday, March 01, 2000 08:44 AM Bob, I just came over to this conference to say "Let's start discussing JM on the 15th", but you beat me to it. I won't be able to chime in for a while, because I haven't cracked the book yet. I hope the messages don't time out before I get a chance to read them. Sherry
Topic: Jack Maggs (3 of 12), Read 39 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Bob Markiewicz (bobmarkiewicz@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, March 01, 2000 08:57 AM >I hope >the messages don't time out >before I get a chance to read >them. > >Sherry > I didn't know this happened. I guess I'll shut up. BOB
Topic: Jack Maggs (4 of 12), Read 40 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Wednesday, March 01, 2000 09:18 AM Bob--No, no! Don't shut up! This conference is set to archive notes after 45 days, so they aren't in danger of timing off. There's no explaining why, but I love these "during the reading impressions". There are always a few that pop up in discussions of the official books, but next to none about other books. I almost never post about a book in the middle of reading it; I'm always worried that my impression will change by the end, but I'll neglect to look it up again and report about it. I do remember, though I wasn't reading along, how much fun it was reading Thom's chapter by chapter reactions to A Man in Full. Anyhow, it's obvious I'm not gonna get to Great Expectations, but I'll be stopping by Half Price to check for Jack Maggs again today, fingers crossed. (I really don't get it, they always get multiple copies of books that sell well, but I have not found a copy of this there yet!) Tonya
Topic: Jack Maggs (5 of 12), Read 47 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Bob Markiewicz (bobmarkiewicz@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, March 01, 2000 09:46 AM > >Anyhow, it's obvious I'm not >gonna get to Great >Expectations, but I'll be >stopping by Half Price to >check for Jack Maggs again >today, fingers crossed. (I >really don't get it, they >always get multiple copies of >books that sell well, but I >have not found a copy of this >there yet!) >Tonya > Here you go, possum, plenty of hardcover copies at a mere $5.98: http://www.daedalus-books.com/ Anything else you might like, too, tons and tons of remainders. But DON"T tell anybody else! BOB
Topic: Jack Maggs (6 of 12), Read 49 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, March 01, 2000 10:04 AM A few years ago, when Ann and I read War and Peace together on Classics Corner, we did those chapter by chapter discussions. Since it took us all summer to finish, it was the only way to keep the topic alive. However, I agree with you, Tonya, I really enjoyed that process and like it when we do it with other books too (as long as there are no spoilers). Barb
Topic: Jack Maggs (7 of 12), Read 53 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Wednesday, March 01, 2000 11:47 AM Tonya, I didn't know that the notes were set to stay here that long. Great. I'll probably start reading this today. I saw Peter Carey at a book signing and he was quite entertaining. He's Australian and he was interested in the history of convicts being exported to Australia. He had never read any Dickens before he read Great Expectations and loved the book. I'm not sure if he read GE just to read about Maggwitch (I forgot how to spell that) or if the reading of GE got him thinking. Anyway, I think it's fascinating to find how people come up with book ideas. Sherry
Topic: Jack Maggs (8 of 12), Read 38 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, March 01, 2000 02:52 PM I won't, Bob. Mum's the word. Thanks for the tip. Dan
Topic: Jack Maggs (9 of 12), Read 19 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, March 01, 2000 08:25 PM Bob, I was a bit bothered when we got to the hypnosis part too, but then the story picked up again. Dickens himself was very interested in "mesmerism." I don't know how believable it is that a tough character like Jack could be hypnotized unwillingly. Someone tried to hypnotize me once and it was a complete flop. I understand only some people can be hypnotized. Ann
Topic: Jack Maggs (10 of 12), Read 15 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Thursday, March 02, 2000 02:12 AM Ann -- But aren't there some people who are also hyper-sensitive and therefore easily hypnotized? Seems like I remember something like that. I got past that initial scene and am now thinking this may be a better comparison than I thought -- see how quickly the scene can shift? I have thoughts already that this book will relate to Dickens real life as much as to characters in GE or any other Dickens writing. At any rate -- I think this joint discussion will be interesting. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: Jack Maggs (11 of 12), Read 13 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Bob Markiewicz (bobmarkiewicz@aol.com) Date: Thursday, March 02, 2000 06:09 AM Twasn't the hypnotisim I was referring to, it was the house confinement. In any case, Dickens' fascination with it is well documented and, well, you better get used to it, because it runs all the way through the book. BOB
Topic: Jack Maggs (12 of 12), Read 2 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Thursday, March 02, 2000 10:01 AM Bob, I've visited that site before, but never bookmarked it. Thanks for the reminder. They used to send catalogs to me, but I haven't had one for a long time. Sherry, I think the time to archiving was recently increased. I know it's pretty darn long, because breaking it away from the CR conference keeps it down to 4 or 5 topics at a time, max, and response stays bearable. Ann, I think mesmerism was a worldwide fad for a while, and a lot of famous names were involved. Didn't Alias Grace bring up a famous name in relation to hypnotism? And there was a movie, a few years ago, that portrayed somebody famous (maybe Mark Twain? Where is Kent when you need him?) deeply involved and publicly supportive of hypnotism. Tonya
Topic: Jack Maggs (13 of 15), Read 21 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Thursday, March 02, 2000 06:08 PM Yes, Tonya, I think mesmerism was quite the fad. George Eliot was also very interested in it. Bob, thanks for clarifying that you meant confining the action to the house, rather than the mesmerism. I don't know how far you are, but at the end of the book the action finally breaks away from the London houses. Ann
Topic: Jack Maggs (14 of 15), Read 22 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Bob Markiewicz (r j markiewicz@aol.com) Date: Thursday, March 02, 2000 07:06 PM Finished it last night, Ann, but am keeping very, very still. BOB
Topic: Jack Maggs (15 of 15), Read 11 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, March 03, 2000 03:31 AM My comment at the moment is -- that hesitant walking start certainly didn't last -- I am racing through at breakneck pace now and will certainly be done early next week unless I manage to read between rambles to Carnaval activities this weekend -- well, maybe midweek as there is event Carnaval event on Tuesday to see the Gilles in Binche! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: Jack Maggs (16 of 16), Read 25 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, March 03, 2000 07:00 PM Well -- THAT squeezing the reading into the Carnaval schedule problem got solved -- finished Maggs with my brunch today! What a book! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: Jack Maggs (17 of 22), Read 29 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Tuesday, March 07, 2000 10:54 AM Iím so glad I read this right after I read Great Expectations. Even though I know I would have enjoyed it in any case, the juxtaposition was rewarding. When I first heard about this book and found out it was based on a character in GE, my little linear mind made the assumption that JM would begin where GE left off. Then at the end of GE I realized that couldnít possibly be the case. Iím sure I wonít give anything away by telling you that JM is a book that fictionalizes how Dickens might have come up with the idea of GE. Carey weaves a fascinating story combining ideas in GE and elements of Dickensís real life (although I havenít read a biography of him, Iím assuming these elements are based on reality). Has anyone more information about that? I think Careyís writing is excellent. He captures the spirit of the times, but his prose is tight and modern, without the excesses you find in Dickens (however lovable those excesses might be). His Jack Maggs is a more dynamic character and more real to me than the Magwitch in GE. Sherry
Topic: Jack Maggs (18 of 22), Read 23 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, March 07, 2000 07:17 PM I think that the biographical detail in JM definitely fits with the facts of his life as laid out by Irving in his intro to my edition of GE, Sherry. I agree that JM was definitely worth the read! Am glad to have read it in close conjunction with GE. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: Jack Maggs (19 of 22), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, March 07, 2000 08:16 PM Sherry, I have no doubt that Dickens was the inspiration for Tobias Oates, the author in JACK MAGGS, but they are by no means identical. Trying to figure out what Carey borrowed from Dickens' actual life and what he simply invented is part of the fun. I knew from Phyllis Rose's PARALLEL LIVES that Dickens engineered a separation from his wife and that he had unusually close relationships with two of her sisters. His wife bore him 10 children and had two miscarriages in the course of about 16 years. You'd think this might have bought her some consideration, but after what seemed like a happy early married life, Dickens ended up deciding that he absolutely couldn't tolerate living with her any more and he forced her to leave home. He did give her a generous settlement. He kept the kids that were still at home, except for the oldest son who went to live with his mother for awhile. The children were allowed to visit their mother. The separation itself might not have been so bad, but Dickens publicly placed all of the blame for the break-up on his poor wife, accusing her of being a bad mother among many other failings. It was as if, after the separation, he made up the plot for his marriage and tried to rewrite the facts to fit it. Sounds to me like he had a bad case of well-deserved guilt. Early in their marriage, his wife's young sister Mary came to live with them. Dickens was infatuated with this girl, who died very suddenly when she was only 17 or 18. There had been no warning that she was sick. She died in Dickens' arms and her death was attributed to a heart attack. Dickens mourned terribly for this sister-in-law. Up to two years after she had died, he was still getting out her old clothes to hold, and he wanted to be buried in the same grave as she. I checked out a couple of biographical books about Dickens from the library. Neither author felt that the relationship between Dickens and the sister-in-law was physical, although the way he wrote about her and his behavior after her death certainly seem suspicious to modern readers. Later, Georgina, another of his wife's sisters came to live with the couple. This one helped with the household and children and even stayed on with Dickens after he booted out his wife. There were rumors at the time that they were involved in a sexual relationship, but again, these authors did not feel that was the case. I mention all this because Tobias's relationship with his sister-in-law in JACK MAGGS is a pivotal part of the plot. Ann
Topic: Jack Maggs (20 of 22), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, March 07, 2000 08:47 PM Ann, Thanks for the information about Dickens. It is a good thing that I enjoy his books, otherwise I wouldn't be able to stand him because of his personal life! Jane
Topic: Jack Maggs (21 of 22), Read 25 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, March 07, 2000 10:08 PM Jane, As the kids today say, Dickens had a lot of "issues". He was a very complex individual and must have felt considerable guilt about his treatment of his wife, Catherine, since he felt such a strong need to rationalize his behavior to everyone. Dale and Sherry like the quote "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." In Dickens' case, I'm afraid it was. I like to read about the classic authors. Literary giants often have a poor track record in the human relationship department. However, there are some who seem to have been genuinely decent human beings. I admire William Thackery, who treated his mentally ill wife very well and incidentally remained a friend of Mrs. Dickens after the forced separation, and I also like George Elliot, who was exceptionally generous to the family of her lover, George Lewis. I am, of course, willing to concede that my interest in literary biography is a weakness and that my appraisal of an author's writing should never be influenced by my evaluation of his life. It's just that I can't help wondering what made these great minds tick. Ann
Topic: Jack Maggs (22 of 22), Read 18 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000 08:25 AM Ann: T.S. Eliot once noted he despised Milton the man but admired Milton the author. Literary biographies make fascinating reading, but, like you say, we must be careful to distinguish the art from the life whenever feasible. Dan
Topic: Jack Maggs (23 of 23), Read 21 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000 08:55 PM Ann and Dan, The same can be said about film directors. Woody Allen would be a good example of a great film maker but a lousy person. I know that some people boycott his films because of his personal life. What if people started boycotting authors because of their personal lives? It seems much easier to ignore the faults of an author who was alive more than a hundred years ago. Jane
Topic: Jack Maggs (24 of 25), Read 7 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Friday, March 17, 2000 07:48 AM So, since we are past the usual date for starting the thread for the Reading List Book, has anyone else finished Jack Maggsyet? I hope we haven't finished our discussion. For people who didn't read Great Expectationsjust previously, how did JM stand on its own? Sherry
Topic: Jack Maggs (25 of 25), Read 2 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, March 17, 2000 09:01 AM I am glued to this novel at the present, Sherry. I will comment on it as soon as I finish. All I can say right now is that I find Maggs' letters to Philip most interesting. Dan
Topic: Jack Maggs (26 of 27), Read 8 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, March 17, 2000 09:46 AM Sherry, I has been at least two weeks since I finished JACK MAGGS, and the details are already slipping away, but I found it a great read. I loved the twists and turns in the plot. It reminded me a lot of 19th century novels written for serialization, which always had a hook at the end of the serial to ensure that reader would come back for more. Toby, the author in JACK MAGGS, is based to a large extent on Charles Dickens. "Mesmerism" (i.e., hypnosis) plays a large part in the plot of JM. Out of curiosity, I checked out the role this played in Dickens' life. Interestingly enough, he was an expert at hypnotizing others, although he himself refused to be hypnotized, fearing a loss of control which I can well understand. For several months, Dickens himself "treated" a mentally disturbed woman suffering from extreme anxiety. One of its symptoms was a nervous tic or facial spasm. She believed she was being pursued by a phantom who appeared in her dreams and wouldn't let her rest. During the hypnosis sessions, Dickens tried to draw her out about this demon. This sounds a lot like JACK MAGGS, doesn't it? These parallels with Dickens and GE made the book more fun for me, although they have nothing to do with its literary merit. I too am curious about the reaction of readers who did not read GREAT EXPECTATIONS. Ann
Topic: Jack Maggs (27 of 27), Read 2 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Friday, March 17, 2000 10:18 AM I read Great Expectations in junior high, but not last month, so almost anything I remember about it is probably based on movies instead of the book. I am reading Jack Maggs (but I haven't been getting a lot of reading time lately-- it's beginning to feel like I've been reading Jack Maggs for the greater part of my life!) Anyway, about two-thirds of the way through, what I find myself looking for and anticipating is a similarity between the obsessions of Pip and Jack to the young females, Estella and Sophina. I haven't seen anything specific beyond the fact that they wanted to spend their lives with these girls and didn't, but it is what I keep expecting. It would not be possible for me on my own to discern Dickens/Toby parallels, since everything I know about Dickens is what I'm reading here. Tonya
Topic: Jack Maggs (28 of 31), Read 28 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, March 17, 2000 10:50 AM I've been waiting for the discussion to begin, and didn't realize that we'd passed the starting gate. As I said in the GE thread, I've read it twice before, the last time maybe 20 years ago, and did not reread it last month, so I won't be much good at teasing out parallels between GE and JM. I finished JM a few days ago, and the book is already back at the library. This was a rollicking good read, though. A good old-fashioned novel. I enjoyed it, especially the flavor of Dickens' London. I did have to give my "willing suspension of disbelief" a purposeful hoist or two in order to swallow that letter JM was composing throughout. Nobody, but nobody, writes letters like that. But perhaps this was just another hark back to 19th century literature, which often used this kind of device. Ruth
Topic: Jack Maggs (29 of 31), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, March 17, 2000 12:11 PM While I found this book an interesting read--and one which kept the attention--there were aspects that bothered me. Maggs's mood swings are just too wild. It's hard for me to imagine this character settling down and living happily ever after. The whole ending has a quality which I've been seeing in a number of books lately, where the whole convoluted plot suddenly gets wrapped up in one chapter spanning the last thirty or forty years of the characters' lives. It's as though the author was just sick of the whole thing, or received orders from his publisher to wrap the whole thing up already and quit wasting paper. This was one of my few complaints with Corelli's Mandolin, for example. As for the connection with Great Expectations, I found Jack Maggs disappointing in that aspect as well. My impression was that the author simply rewrote GE, mixing in some historical facts from Dickens' life. It seemed more like an exercise in circular logic than anything. David
Topic: Jack Maggs (30 of 31), Read 22 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, March 17, 2000 12:49 PM David, I can understand your reaction to the ending. It made me smile. I didn't really buy it, of course, but it was just so 19th century. I thought of JM as more of a riff on GE and Charles Dickens rather than a rewriting. Maggs was quite a different character than Abel Magwitch (hope I got that name right), for example and the Pip character was divided into two different people in the Carey version. Carey seemed to be presenting a fictional author, similar but not identical to Dickens, who wrote a book like GREAT EXPECTATIONS. The artifice, if you will, of Carey's book is that he shows us the real people who inspired this author. Ann
Topic: Jack Maggs (31 of 31), Read 20 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, March 17, 2000 01:05 PM On 3/17/00 12:49:11 PM, Ann Davey wrote: Ann -- I want to hear more about the split Pip characters from you. I think the Maggs characters based on the real life folks in Dickens life were every bit as fascinating as the character Dickens created in GE and which Carey 'morphed' in Jack Maggs. Am looking forward to hearing more and to the opinions of those who read GE as juxtaposed with those who have either never read or who did not reread GE with the group! Should prove a lively discussion. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: Jack Maggs (32 of 32), Read 6 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Saturday, March 18, 2000 08:57 PM Like Tonya, I read GREAT EXPECTATIONS in the ninth grade. Since I recently watched a Masterpiece Theater on GE, I didn't want to reread the novel. The story seemed fairly fresh in my mind. I found JACK MAGGS to be very different from GE in that it focused on the prisoner and not on the young man who received the education from the prisoner. The part of JM that I liked the most was the story of his childhood. This is what reminded me most of Dickens. The part of the novel where JM locks everyone in the house seemed a bit much. Jane
Topic: Jack Maggs (33 of 37), Read 17 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, March 19, 2000 10:04 AM Dottie, I remarked earlier that I thought two characters in JM resembled Pip in GE, and you asked me to elaborate. I was thinking of Percy Buckle, who had very unexpectedly been elevated to the position of gentleman by a mysterious inheritance only a year earlier, and Henry Phipps(even the name is very close), the disappearing next door neighbor. They had both enjoyed elements of Pip's experience, although there are very obvious dissimilarities as well. Of course, these characters are just as fictional as those in GE, but you can guess how Tobias Oates might have drawn from them to create his book called The Death of Maggs, just as Dickens may have refashioned some of his personal experiences to create Great Expectations. Ann
Topic: Jack Maggs (34 of 37), Read 12 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Sunday, March 19, 2000 05:46 PM Ah -- thank you, Ann, Henry Phipps was Maggs' beneficiary of course as Pip was of Magwitch but I had temporarily lost the Buckle newly rich angle! Yes -- it was interesting from the standpoint of the comparison between what Buckle did/did not do after his elevation in status and Phipps -- and what Maggs might have expected of Phipps. Dottie -- who will say again that she is glad to have read Maggs in conjunction with GE ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: Jack Maggs (35 of 37), Read 11 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Bob Markiewicz (bob markiewicz@aol.com) Date: Sunday, March 19, 2000 06:01 PM Am I the only one who really hated this book? I dumped it twenty pages before the messy ending could burn the book down completely. While I did not read GE with you, I have read it many times, even recently, and remember it well. When JM started, I thought it was going to be sensational, dark and atmospheric, up through the arrival at the house. (I love the name Lambs' Conduit!) Aside from Jack, who, as someone has pointed out, has mood swings, and Tobias, who is totally hateful, there isn't a fully fleshed out, interesting character in the entire novel, certainly nothing to compare to the Dickens' characters he's choosing to emulate. There are so many loose endings....for example, the out-of-the-blue revelations of the footman and Phipps buggery, the entire homosexual angle is dropped in, presumably to provide some revelation about Phipps, and totally forgotten. We have Carey doing a spinoff of Dickens, we have Maggs doing a spinoff of Dickens (whatever is all that roofcrawling about?), then we get Tobias writing HIS Dickens. At this point I was really afeared we were going to get the whole damned thing. And that house quarantine with Tobias as the doctor and the death that follows and those long boring patches with those people trapped in that house, as someone has already said, was totally unbelievable and the beginning of my losing any sense of credibility. I have long wanted to read JACK MAGGS and joining you in a discussion prompted to finally do so. Final two words on it: major disappointment. BOB
Topic: Jack Maggs (36 of 37), Read 4 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, March 19, 2000 09:23 PM You are certainly entitled to your opinion. I really enjoyed the book and had no trouble with any of the things that drove you nuts. Sherry
Topic: Jack Maggs (37 of 37), Read 2 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Bob Markiewicz (bob markiewicz@aol.com) Date: Sunday, March 19, 2000 09:42 PM On 3/19/00 9:23:16 PM, Sherry Keller wrote: >You are certainly entitled to >your opinion. Yes, I am, but that line sounds very defensive, Sherry, and I have no idea why. If I'm wrong about that, I'm sorry. Why not just provide some counterpoint to the arguments I put forth? This is an open forum with room for differences, no? One further think about JACK MAGGS. The Dickens/Tobias character was truly hateful, without a single redeeming quality and it seemed especially ironic to me that Carey would both imitate Dickens' work and paint such an ugly portrait at the same time. BOB
Topic: Jack Maggs (38 of 38), Read 1 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Sunday, March 19, 2000 10:30 PM Bob, You may end up being the only one who truly hates it, but I ain't gonna come down in favor of it. No matter how much I keep trying to blame this on a personal reading slump, it's starting to look more and more like it's this book. I've been straining to get through a few pages each evening, hoping things would turn. Nothing is turning, and keeping this up for another 40 or 50 pages could feel torturous. I'm spinning the towel 'round and 'round over my head right now, seriously considering throwing it in. Tonya
Topic: Jack Maggs (39 of 43), Read 26 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, March 19, 2000 11:33 PM Bob, I did not find Tobias to be hateful at all. In fact I felt considerable sympathy for this man whose neediness could never really be satisfied. Here are a couple of passages that him more understandable to me: Having come from no proper family himself, or none that he could remember without great bitterness, he had for all his short, determined life carried with him a mighty passion to create that safe warm world he had been denied. (p.41) ... No one who knew Tobias, not even the old actor who thought he saw the "thunder," had any understanding of his unholy thirst for love. He had not known it himself. He did not know the curse or gift his ma and pa had given him: he would not be loved enough, not ever. He never really knew this truth about himself, not even when the fame he craved was finally, briefly, granted him and he travelled from city to city like a one-man carnival act, feeding off the applause of his readers. Even when it was thrown in his face, so to speak, he did not see it.p. 43 But then, I'm kind of a soft touch for dysfunctional characters. Ann
Topic: Jack Maggs (40 of 43), Read 22 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Monday, March 20, 2000 03:18 AM Bob, My only question on your post here is -- did you cave in and read those final twenty pages in order to know the messy ending burned the book down -- I LOVE that -- "burned the book down" -- perfect description of what happens in far too many books! Now about the other points -- first -- somehow the Lamb's Conduit thing just went right past me. I think this was because I had a great deal of difficulty getting started with JM reading (nearly stopped before I got truly started). So once I convinced myself that this might actually relate to GE -- then I got interested and read at breakneck speed -- letting names just slide by unless I found I had lost track of one and then I had to backtrack. I think there were hints of Phipps and the footman -- but they were so vague and even contradictory that when the revelation came -- it did seem sort of just thrown in all at once -- could this have just been Carey putting yet another twist to the tale? Or is he saying something here? About the sexuality of Dickens characters or about the sexuality of Dickens? (Gasp -- did Dottie write that!) The roof crawling while weird didn't bother me so much -- I think there was a lot of roof-crawling in London then. This seems to exist in many of the tales of the time and since the streets were running sewers difficult to navigate in daytime and the boards used to form overpasses to avoid the sewage were often taken up at evening I think -- folks roaming at night may have taken the high road so to speak. And -- yes -- that lock down seemed a bit weak but thinking of it in a general sense -- lock downs for disease were much more common then and doctors were a lot less regulated, well-known and less trained and so on -- I suppose it could have been a reality of the time. Still it wasn't presented in such a way as to make it flow with the story. Having said all this -- the difference is -- you started out enthused and wound up hating all these trouble points so much so that the book didn't work and you were disappointed. I started out having all these trouble points which kept me outside the whole thing until I got far enough and stopped looking at the frayed edges and read to the end with the end result that -- while flawed, I do finally see this as relative to Dickens and his writing and his characters in GE. And I think Sherry's opening line was meant to convey the idea that while what she followed with was opposed to what you said that she didn't mean you shouldn't have said it! When it comes to books here -- Bob -- you will find that we don't all agree all the time which is part of the point of discussing books! So -- what else do you want to say about JM ? Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: Jack Maggs (41 of 43), Read 17 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Monday, March 20, 2000 03:40 AM Ann -- I am a soft touch for reading dysfunctional characters also -- I think it has to do with my real life somehow. But just the sheer weight of sadness which those quotes imparts of a person who TRULY has no idea of being a person who was or could ever be loved enough to fill the gap which was laid in him in his youth. And that is what is out there -- in countless people -- that hole which cannot be filled except and unless they find it in themselves to fill it and keep it filled and then create their lives. Filling that hole is NOT an easy task -- characters in books -- aside there are plenty of writers who ARE fine writers simply because they, too, know that gaping chasm which can never hold enough love to keep them whole! Maybe we have this great lack of love to thank for Dickens works as would seem to be indicated by the intro by John Irving in my edition of Great Expectations and also by extrapolation in JM's Tobias created by Carey in Dickens image. Whew! That was a mouthful. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: Jack Maggs (42 of 43), Read 15 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Monday, March 20, 2000 07:18 AM Bob, Sorry I was curt enough with my last post that you thought I was being defensive. I was really sleepy and just wanted to put in my two cents. I'm still sleepy (just woke up, coffee hasn't kicked in) and the book's upstairs, and it's been a while since I read it and details are slipping away. Different opinions are certainly welcome here. I will try to put something cogent together and get back together with some real details. Sherry
Topic: Jack Maggs (43 of 43), Read 1 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Monday, March 20, 2000 11:25 AM If we have consensus on anything, it is that Jack Maggs is a very different experience for each reader! Sherry loved it, Dottie started apprehensively but finally jumped in, Bob jumped right in but was tossed out in the details, and I'm coming in close to Bob, except that he didn't hang in. I finished it last night. Finally. Guess I really did want to know how all the characters finished, and once Tobias and Jack returned to London, Carey got things in motion again. But I'll tell you the truth, from the lock-down to their return to London, it was just this side of impossible to continue with. If it hadn't been a reading list book, I'd never have made the effort. In my first note on Jack Maggs, I said I was looking for parallels between Pip & Estella, and Jack & Sophina, and I was disappointed there were very few. If this were Dickens' experience, whence the mad old jilted woman and the unattainable cold young beauty? Maybe a part of his experience, being unable to have his sister-in-law? I keep wondering if I'd have noticed anything of Great Expectations in this novel without the prior knowledge. What do you all think? Would it have been obvious? Tonya
Topic: Jack Maggs (44 of 44), Read 7 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Bob Markiewicz (bob markiewicz@aol.com) Date: Monday, March 20, 2000 11:36 AM Tonya wrote: But I'll tell you the truth, from the lock-down to their return to London, it was just this side of impossible to continue with. Very well put, Tonya, but I tell you, I felt that with a mere twenty pages to go, I had, in fact, "read" the book. BOB (notice I didn't say "damned thing.")
Topic: Jack Maggs (45 of 49), Read 27 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Anne Wilfong (annewilfong@worldnet.att.net) Date: Monday, March 20, 2000 12:53 PM I know I was less than impressed with a book when, despite the failings of memory with age and stress, I barely remember it after only a week. JM grabbed my attention enough early on to induce sunburn while reading it in Florida, but by the end I could barely struggle through. I find that so annoying. I guess I couldn't really relate to the characters, though I, too am a softie for most dysfunctionals...and I need to relate and understand to put forth the effort in reading. Like Tonya, I thought it was just this long reading slump I've been in. But I've got a good one in hand right now, I'm happy to say. Anne in snowy Colorado Reading is life...the rest is just details
Topic: Jack Maggs (46 of 49), Read 15 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, March 20, 2000 04:59 PM Well, I'm starting to this was a lot more enjoyable for those of us who just finished GREAT EXPECTATIONS. However, Ruth hasn't read GE recently and she also described JM as a good read. I thought this book was fun. It certainly wasn't deep, but then I could make the same complaint about most of Dickens. It was a New York Times "Notable Book of the Year," so those of us who really liked it weren't alone. Tonya, I didn't really find a parallel to the Mercy character in GE, although she did make me think of Sonia, the prostitute with the heart of gold in last month's CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, particularly when her mother pushed her into prostitution because they were starving. Ann
Topic: Jack Maggs (47 of 49), Read 15 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Monday, March 20, 2000 05:04 PM I wondered if it actually was a mistake reading Jack Maggs right after Great Expectations. Dickens transfixed me. All the fantastic situations, characters and plot turns that Carey was trying to use worked wonderfully for me in GE, but mostly fell flat in JM. I actually thought maybe I was just having one of those post-great book reactions, but after reading the notes here, it sounds like it may be more generalized than that. I found that I was involved in the parts of the book that had to do with Tobias and his wife and sister-in-law (sorry about the lack of names; I've returned the book to the library). That excerpt that Ann quoted about his inability to ever find enough love defined him for me. And, I found him to be a complex, layered character though still not as fleshed out as I would have liked. The story of Jack Maggs childhood was fairly interesting and held my attention. However, most of Maggs' adult years and the whole Percy Buckle household seemed rather sketchy. I didn't really understand what was going on most of the time and didn't actually care. And, all of the hypnotism, bringing out of the phantom, etc. just didn't jell. I find myself outside the story all of a sudden thinking what a bad job Carey was doing with this part...distracting. I am very interested in the historical connections that Ann included in her note. Anything more would be welcome (my love for biography starts entering the picture here.) Barb
Topic: Jack Maggs (48 of 49), Read 17 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Monday, March 20, 2000 05:13 PM I think the answer here is a good bio of Dickens -- will see if such was mentioned in the GE intro by Irving or anywhere in my copy. Anyone else? I think that what saved Jack Maggs for me personally was the dawning of the Dickens' details embedded in Tobias rather than the characters relationship to Dickens' characters. And I was only aware of this from having just read GE in the particular edition which my husband carted home from the States for me -- which just happened to include that Irving intro -- otherwise, I really think that like Bob and Tonya and others here I might have given it up. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: Jack Maggs (49 of 49), Read 2 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Monday, March 20, 2000 11:22 PM Back to what Ruth said above, about Jack Maggs letters to Phipps, she said no one writes letters like that. I don't know if that's true, but I've never gotten one. Anyway, the style bothered me a lot less than the absence of any explanation for his literacy. Correct me if I missed it, but he started theiving when he was 4 or 5, then after they started going in through the doors he spent the days locked in a room with Sophina or scrubbing the floors. Did he learn to read and write in Australia? What did I miss? Tonya
Topic: Jack Maggs (50 of 55), Read 44 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2000 06:20 AM Tonya -- I don't remember how much of his Australia experience is truly addressed in the book and/or that diary of a letter -- I guess I assumed that he learned to read and write as well as working to amass the fortune which allowed him to help Phipps along. Perhaps something to do with his wife? Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: Jack Maggs (51 of 55), Read 45 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2000 07:36 AM I think that Maggs' writing and writing wasn't exactly a letter, but a kind of inheritance. He wanted to explain himself, so he had to explain his life. What I found strange about it, and I suppose it was just to show his paranoia, was that he wrote it all in mirror writing. But as he delivered the letter with the means of deciphering it all at the same time, it seemed kind of pointless. I found a kind of endearing desperateness to his continuous writing. And it didn't surprise me a bit that he was roaming the roofs. He set himself up in Buckles' house so he could have access to Phipps' (his own) house, and he was adept at roof-crawling from his thieving days. Even thought Jack Maggs had a kind of hard-edged criminal aura about him, I liked him and cared what happened to him. It was Buckle that I was surprised at. He started out rather benign and sweet, sort of like Wemmick, but his basic character was shown as something quite different when he felt threatened by JM. As soon as I realized that this wasn't just a sequel to GE, I judged it entirely differently. I found it easier to read in some ways than GE -- more modern in language while at the same time describing an era very well. I guess this is just one of those books that either clicks with you or doesn't. Sherry
Topic: Jack Maggs (52 of 55), Read 52 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2000 10:49 AM What I found unconvincing about that letter, was not that he scribbled at it constantly, nor that he felt the need to explain his life, but that it was not written like a letter, it was written like a novel, with all the devices that a sophisticated novelist uses. And Sherry, that mirror provided with the mirror writing struck me strange, too. Not to mention the difficulty of scribbling off acres of the stuff. Ruth
Topic: Jack Maggs (53 of 55), Read 37 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2000 05:16 PM While I am enjoying the connection between this book and GE, I've noticed that Carey seems inept at narrative within this novel--it does not flow at all. It seems to be one scene after another with little connective tissue (if any). Dickens' was a master at of narration--the narrative flowed through Pip's life and the reader was carried along with the flow. With Dickens, the reader was guided from place to place without eve wondering why they were going from A to B. The journey from A to B was simply worth taking. Here, Carey just inserts one disconnected scene after another. It's not even interesting in a "post-modern" sense--it just seems shoddy narration. I like the character of Jack Maggs. Carey has successfully fleshed out the Magwitch present in GE. But now Magwitch as Maggs is set in a book without that terrific sense of narrative flow--except in those sections Maggs pens to Phipps. If the entire book would have been written in Jack Maggs' voice, this novel would have been tens times better. Once we leave those letters, we enter a world of pedestrian prose and non sequitars. And we wait for Jack to find the time to write some more. Dan
Topic: Jack Maggs (54 of 55), Read 35 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2000 07:10 PM I think you're onto something, Dan. While I complained that I couldn't accept the letter as a letter, I certainly did accept it as good fiction writing, and like you, I enjoyed it more than most of the rest of the book. I said before, I thought this book was a good read, but it's certainly not without its faults, as many of you have pointed out. BTW, I noticed today at Borders that it had made its way to the sale table, and I thought of what Donna told us about that in the up, up, up, thread. Ruth
Topic: Jack Maggs (55 of 55), Read 35 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2000 08:29 PM Ruth and Dan -- Do you think Carey may have been using Maggs writing to contrast with what Tobias was writing based on the sessions with Maggs which were the Maggs of the earlier life rather than the Maggs of the life after he was reformed? Also Tobias used this "letter" perhaps when he actually wrote the 'novel' in the book after the writings based on the sessions were destroyed (though there were copies also weren't there? -- details are going even as I type!) I am not sure how this would tie into what Dickens may have done with the characters he created -- just thought of it as I read the latest posts! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: Jack Maggs (56 of 56), Read 1 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Wednesday, March 22, 2000 01:23 PM Dottie, There were no copies of the papers Toby and Jack burned. It was very clear that everything, even things Maggs couldn't have dreamed of finding, was handed over and burned. I have to agree with Ruth and Dan, too. The letter reads better than I expect a letter to read, and it is the best part of the story in Jack Maggs. Tonya
Topic: Jack Maggs (57 of 59), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Wednesday, March 22, 2000 01:32 PM Tonya -- I thought it was TOO clear -- and underlying the process of Tobias going and getting this or that out to burn was this hint of an implication that he deliberately did all this BUT -- maybe he had something else that he didn't pull out. I will have to check to make sure I didn't dream this feeling that Tobias was not truly on the square with Maggs on this burning process. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: Jack Maggs (58 of 59), Read 21 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, March 22, 2000 05:11 PM For me the all too lengthy letter was simply a literary device. Agreed that no one would ever write such a letter. But very long letters are used as literary devices in lots of novels, especially older ones. They provide background information or move the plot along. This was not meant to be a realistic novel. I think that Carey wanted to provide the flavor of a 19th century serialized novel. In my opinion, he succeeded. For me, this novel had great narrative flow, evidenced by the fact that once I started it I had a hard time putting it down. Oh, I have to admit that after everyone got quarantined it dragged briefly, but that didn't last long for me. I thought the book was clever, well-written and very entertaining. I didn't take the plot and all its many twists that seriously. I just went along for the ride, never sure where this was all going to end up. All of this just goes to show, I guess, that there's no accounting for taste since some of you had completely opposite experiences. Ann
Topic: Jack Maggs (59 of 59), Read 21 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, March 22, 2000 05:53 PM You're right, Ann, about letters as literary devices, especially in older novels. (Look at Pamela for heaven's sake.) Now that you've brought that up, I thought a bit more on why it bothered me in this wannabee 19th c novel, and I think perhaps it stood out in contrast to the other writing, was by far (for me at least) the most well-written part of the book, which called too much attention to it for it to function well as a mere literary device. Ruth
Topic: Jack Maggs (60 of 60), Read 4 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, March 24, 2000 09:32 AM Having finished Jack Maggs, I can see how Ann compares this novel to a "ride." In the end, everything comes to a climax in a series of chapter snapshots. I rather liked Carey's technique of backing up his characters so that when a penultimate scene arrives--say the Phipps' pistol shot--we arrive at the scene from the point of view of everyone involved. We witness it first from Jack and Mercy by the fire; we witness it again from the point of view of Phipps and Buckle coming up the hall. The link between them is a solitary line of dialogue which is repeated in both scenes. I liked that touch. It's a technique used much better in Joseph Conrad's Victory. However, I still cannot get over the sense of this work being a kind of patische. It seems to be great passages and great scenes stiched together rather haphazardly. While this is a trademark of postmodern fiction, I don't find Carey particularly adept at it. I don't believe he was trying to write or spoof the 19th century novel, because obviously he could do a better job of it judging by the sample writings he created int he voices of Maggs and Oates. No, the novel at large is largely postmodern. Carey just did not create the effect he was striving for, I'm sure. He wanted to take the nuances of 19th century literature and refocus it with a postmodern lens. Instead of sharply delineating each, he blurred the overall effect instead. Yes, "blurred" like the words "Jack Maggs" on the dustcover of the book I purchased. Maybe the blurring was intentional, saying much of the technique of this novel. Dan

 

Read a side discussion about "thief takers" and Jonathan Wild, a character mentioned in Jack Maggs

 

 
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